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Tech Industry

Y2K bill aims to stymie liability suits

Senator John McCain introduces the first of what is expected to be a slew of Year 2000 technology problem related bills filed this year.

The first of what is expected to be a slew of Year 2000 technology problem related bills filed this year has been introduced by Senator John McCain.

The Arizona Republican's bill would offer companies making good-faith efforts to solve the Y2K glitch some protection from lawsuits.

McCain in a statement said the purpose of this legislation is to "ensure that we look to solving the technology glitch known as Y2K rather than clog our courts with years of costly litigation. We are almost a year away from this potential problem and a number of lawsuits are already being contemplated. This is an unfortunate reflection on our overly litigious society."

The bill would also encourage "efficient" resolution of Y2K failures by allowing defendants the opportunity to remedy the failure and correct the situation before facing a lawsuit.

The issue of providing Y2K litigation protection for companies has become one of the more heated controversies of the technology problem, cutting across party lines and law firms alike.

Prefacing the Congressional passage and presidential signing of the Year 2000 Information and Readiness Disclosure Act, which provides limited liability protections to encourage companies to shareBack to Year 2000 Index Page information about products, methods, and best practices, legal experts debated whether it protected consumer rights. Some members of Congress argued it didn't provide enough litigation protection.

As with the Disclosure Act earlier, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) have said publicly it will "actively oppose" McCain's bill because they believe it provides companies too much protection.

McCain is standing by his bill. "My goal is to provide incentives for fixing the potential Y2K failures before they happen, rather than create windfalls for those who litigate," he said.

McCain is the chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and is flirting with making a presidential run in 2000.

The Year 2000 problem, also known as the millennium bug, stems from an old programming shortcut that used only the last two digits of the year. Many computers now must be modified or they may mistake the year 2000 for the year 1900 or may not be able to function at all, causing widespread disruptions in services in the transportation, financial, utility, and public safety sectors, observers warn.