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IBM slapped with Y2K suit

The firm and a partner are sued by customers who purchased a bundled medical computing suite they claim is not Y2K compliant.

    The legal tornado surrounding the Year 2000 technology problem has claimed another company.

    IBM has been slapped by a class action lawsuit on behalf of those customers who purchased a bundled medical computing suite containing hardware and software manufactured by IBM and its business partner, Raleigh, North Carolina-based Medic Computer Systems. The suite includes IBM's RS/6000 computer running AIX 4.1 and version 7.0 of Medic's software.

    Medic makes products that track patient appointments and test results.

    The suit, announced Back to Year 2000 Index Page yesterday, was filed by the Chicago-based law firm Gold & Rosenfeld on behalf of Mario C. Yu, a physician specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, and all other similarly situated persons and entities who purchased the bundled suite.

    Yu seeks to recover compensatory, punitive, and injunctive relief on behalf of all class members. Specifically, the plaintiff seeks an injunction ordering IBM and Medic to give "effective and meaningful notice" to all registered users of the defective product, and to provide a patch, at the software companies' cost, to fix the problem.

    The complaint alleges that the defendants either knew or should have known that the bundled suite was not Y2K compliant, and accordingly would fail on and after January 1, 2000.

    The Year 2000 glitch can cause computers to read 2000 as 1900, since most older computers were programmed to read a two-digit year date. That bug could cause machines to either crash or transmit bad information.

    The suit further alleges that as a consequence of the Y2K problem, the thousands of health care providers using the product face significant possibility of a substantial interruption to their medical practices, and the consequent effect on patient care.

    According to the complaint, Yu purchased the bundle in December, 1996 for installation in 1997 at a total cost of $19,336. In December, 1998, Yu was told by the software vendors that the product was not Y2K compliant and that he would have to spend an additional $2,410 to make his system compliant.

    The Medic/IBM package performs a number of "critical" functions. These include tracking patient actions, appointments, and lab test results.

    Yu specifically used the product for scheduling patients for breast exams and follow-ups for any potential cancer risks or treatment. He also used it to schedule patients for examening patients for potential cervical cancer risks as well.

    Attorneys for Yu believe that the risks to patients if the product fails should be of concern to other medical specialists in the United States involved in the similar practice of medicine.

    Neither IBM nor Medic representatives were immediately available for comment.

    According to the complaint, the Medic product has been installed in over 11,000 client sites and is used by more than 60,000 physicians.

    The suit filed against IBM comes just days after Microsoft was slapped with a similar lawsuit filed by a computer consultant claiming the software titan knowingly shipped tools that were not Y2K compliant.

    The plaintiff in the Microsoft case--the first suit of its kind filed against the Redmond, Washington-based giant--is also represented by Gold & Rosenfeld.