"They may not get as much attention as Microsoft's high-profile
legal battle against the U.S. Department of Justice, but dozens of
private antitrust lawsuits are working their way through the
nation's courts -- claims that could cost the company billions of
dollars in damages. While the government case seeks drastic
remedies to reel in what Microsoft can do in the future, the
private suits want to force the company to pay for what it's done
in the past. Unlike the DOJ, the plaintiffs seek monetary damages,
which could be tripled under antitrust laws."
"More than 140 suits are pending in venues from Michigan to
Maine. They vary slightly in terms of the people and products
they're seeking to represent, but they have one thing in common --
all allege that Microsoft charged thousands of consumers too much
money for Windows and other applications. The stakes are high,
as much as $7 billion, according to a formula developed by
Robert Hall, an economist at Stanford University's Hoover
Institute. First, the cases must clear the sizeable legal hurdles
that have already wiped out consumer lawsuits in Nevada, Oregon,
"Lawyers who in the past have targeted breast implant makers,
asbestos companies and the tobacco industry rushed to file when it
became clear that Microsoft's federal case wasn't going well.
Ambulance chasers? In many ways, the private suits are very much
dependent upon the government's case against the software giant.
After all, government attorneys have done much of the heavy lifting
in the case, ferreting out documents and testimony that the private
attorneys can use to bolster their cause."
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