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Lawsuits filed over Sidekick outages

Various legal actions claim negligence on the part of Microsoft and T-Mobile led to the recent cell phone woes.

It was only a matter of time, but the T-Mobile Sidekick issue has now spilled over to the courthouse.

A number of lawsuits have been filed, including two filed in federal court in Northern California on Wednesday that allege both negligence and false claims on the part of Microsoft and T-Mobile.

T-Mobile Sidekick LX CNET

The suits come amid a massive outage of the service that powers the Sidekick, which has hampered data service since early this month and left many users without access to their calendars, address books, and other information. At one point, Microsoft and T-Mobile indicated that any data not yet recovered was probably lost permanently, however the companies said Monday that they were more optimistic about being able to bring back users' information.

One suit, filed on behalf of a Bakersfield, Calif., man "and all others similarly situated" charges that, among other things, Microsoft and Danger failed to use reasonable care in handling Sidekick owners data and that the Sidekick was falsely advertised. That suit seeks monetary damages as well as an order requiring the companies to fix the Sidekicks and service or offer a full refund.

"T-Mobile and its service providers ought to have been more careful the use of backup technology and policies to prevent such data loss" said Ira P. Rothken, an attorney working on that case. "We are hopeful that T-Mobile and the rest of the defendants will do the right thing, use this as an opportunity to redesign the system as a new standard for cloud computing storage, and provide full compensation for the data loss."

Another suit, filed on behalf of Maureen Thompson "and all others similarly situated" seeks unspecified damages for Thompson and others who have lost data as a result of the recent Sidekick problems.

According to her lawyer, Thompson owns a Sidekick used primarily by her daughter, an aspiring model, singer, and songwriter who used her Sidekick to store personal and business contacts, appointments, and even irreplaceable song lyrics not stored anywhere else. The lawyer said that Thompson bought the device "primarily because T-Mobile promised that any data would be protected and available no matter what happened to the phone."

"T-Mobile's initial efforts to reimburse Sidekick users are a step in the right direction, but fail to sufficiently compensate Sidekick users for this disastrous loss of data," Thompson attorney Jay Edelson said in a statement. "T-Mobile and Microsoft promised to safeguard the most important data their customers possess and then apparently failed to follow even the most basic data protection principles. What they did is unthinkable in this day and age."

In that lawsuit, Thompson's lawyers argue why the outage of the Sidekick was particularly devastating, noting the device's cloud-based architecture in which the primary copy of the data is stored, not on the devices, but on servers operated by Microsoft's Danger unit.

"Further complicating the data loss is the fact that Sidekicks, unlike iPhones, BlackBerrys and other smartphones, are not designed to sync locally with a user's personal computer without additional software and hardware," the suit states. "This means that most users were not able to backup their data locally, but were encouraged and required to rely on Microsoft/Danger."

Microsoft declined to comment on the lawsuit, but, a representative said on Wednesday that the company is "obviously very sorry for the inconvenience that this situation has caused Sidekick users, and we are working around the clock in an effort to recover and restore the data for any affected users. While it is still too early to say for sure, we announced on Monday that our engineering teams were increasingly optimistic."

For its part, T-Mobile said in a statement that it "does not comment on pending litigation."

"We are focused on helping our Sidekick customers recover from this recent service disruption and are continuing to support Microsoft's ongoing efforts to address and resolve the Danger platform issues," the company said.

T-Mobile has halted sales of the Sidekick amid the ongoing issues.