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Euro Y2K Diverges From US Litigation.

While US lobby groups, American Trial Lawyers Association (ATLA) and the IT industry have fought and haggled about liability in the aftermath of the millennium bug, the rest of the world appears to have been oblivious to the consequences of the date change. The Year 2000 Liability Bill was approved last week (CI No 3,695) in the Senate after several months of skirmishing and politics, but there seems to be no counterpart in the debating chambers of Europe.

"I've not heard of anything across Europe. There have been one or two private member's bills in 18 months in the UK," says Conor Ward, a partner in London-based law firm Lovell White Durrant, "but they were all no-hopers." The influence of lobby groups has been critical, Ward argues. On many occasions, the efforts of various partisan organizations, from the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) to the ATLA, have controlled the fate of the bill.

Class actions, where it only takes one software product customer to bring a suit against the vendor for the whole customer base to be represented, are particularly common in the US, says Ward. The US is also perceived as a place where damages are there to be won and where courts are generous.

Julian Stait, a partner with UK lawyers Dibb Lupton Alsop, agrees but warns that the damage caps may impact on proper claims. "It will limit the rights of genuine claimants and consumer rights," he says. He advises countries to make sure their judges preside shrewdly, to spot those out for a fast and unjust buck and recognize the authentic cases. "If you trust your courts," you should be alright.
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Publication:Computergram International
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 9, 1999
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