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Inter@ctive Week: MS v. Consumers: The Other Lawsuits

Jul 14, 2000, 23:28 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Lisa M. Bowman)

"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, and Iowa."

"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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