settlement valued at $110 million, plus attorneys' fees, was approved
by the Honorable Tod J. Kaufman, Judge of the Circuit Court of Kanawha
County, West Virginia, on July 27, 2004.
All persons and/or business entities who sustained losses as a result
of purchasing or leasing Y2K non-compliant products who filed claims
have either been paid or are in the process of being paid out of
the settlement funds.
THE SCARE OF THE CENTURY
Y2K is short for "the year 2000." The term came into vogue
in the late 1990's, when members of the media began to publish stories
about various computer systems which would crash or malfunction
on New Year's Eve 1999/New Year's Day 2000. Computer products that
were thought to fail, in whole or in part, were labeled as "Y2K
caused computer systems or products to be Y2K non-compliant?
Those computer products which were date sensitive; i.e., required
accurate dates to function, such as voice mail, call accounting,
etc., relied upon computer chips which were only set up to record
dates up to and including December 31, 1999. This date system format
relied upon the dd/mm/yy format to function. In other words, older
systems with this date format could only record events ranging from
01/01/01 to 31/12/99. To accurately record events falling in the
year 2000 and thereafter, four placeholders were necessary to keep
track of the right century; e.g., yyyy. Systems that did not have
this date format would fail, in whole or in part, come the year
made these products?
Virtually every manufacturer of a computer-assisted device in the
United States manufactured these Y2K defects into their computer
chips, save one or two fore-thinking manufacturers.
did manufacturers do about the Y2K problem?
In most instances, thoughtful manufacturers eventually realized
that they had created computer chips with the Y2K defect in it,
and sought to cure the potential problems long before the year 2000
arose. In many instances, manufacturers provided free fixes for
the Y2K problem to make their products Y2K compliant, or they provided
new products free of charge to end users.
did Lucent/AT&T/Avaya do?
AT&T and its successors manufactured numerous non-Y2K compliant telecommunications
products up to and including the year 1998. In 1996, AT&T spun
off a separate corporate entity known as Lucent Technologies, to manufacture
telecommunications products, which, in some instances, continued
to have the Y2K defect imbedded in them. Eventually, Avaya, Inc.
was spun off from Lucent, which continued the legacy of AT&T
and Lucent products. AT&T, Avaya, and Lucent Technologies claimed
that it was not their responsibility to correct the Y2K defects,
but instead indicated that it was a global unseen problem for which
they were not responsible.
harm could have been done had the products not been made Y2K compliant?
Products which were date-time sensitive would fail, in whole or
in part, come the year 2000, thereby potentially causing equipment
to fail, messages not to be taken, mainframe computers to crash,
etc., thereby losing valuable data, etc.
What kind of litigation was filed?
Three different lawsuits were filed nationwide, requesting certified
nationwide class actions involving this litigation: A lawsuit was
filed in federal court in California, and lawsuits were filed in
state courts in West Virginia and New York. Eventually, two nationwide
class actions were certified in West Virginia and California. It
was eventually agreed between the law firms handling these cases
to centralize the litigation in the state of West Virginia. The
litigation that proceeded in West Virginia involved a nationwide
class action (the first nationwide class action certified by a West
Virginia state court) seeking damages from Lucent Technologies,
Inc., AT&T Corp., and Avaya, Inc., to reimburse business entities
for correcting the Y2K defect. In the summer of 2004, a settlement
was reached, whereby the defendants agreed to provide credits and/or
a cash alternative to all business entities in the United States
and its territories, who purchased, leased, or financed Y2K non-compliant
telecommunications products from defendants. All individuals nationwide
were given the opportunity to opt out of the nationwide class action
if they felt that the settlement was inappropriate or unfair, but
no one did, and all agreed to accept the terms of the settlement.
The time period for filing claims in this litigation terminated
as of October 18, 2004. Claims payments will be processed in the
months to come.
was the role of Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee & Deitzler, P.L.L.C.,
in the Y2K litigation?
We were one of five law firms nationwide who joined together for
the common benefit of our Y2K clients. This case involved over 85,000
businesses nationwide, all of whom agreed to remain in the class,
and agreed to the terms and conditions of the settlement. HPCBD
did the lion's share of all discovery and depositions, including
the prosecution of this case in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County,
West Virginia, through to the settlement of the case.