A Y2K litigation boom is looking increasingly unlikely, with UK lawyers reporting that, four months before the big event, not one Y2K specific lawsuit has been filed in this country.
Even in the US - the universally acknowledged world capital of litigation - a mere 74 cases had been filed by June 30 this year, new research from PricewaterhouseCoopers has revealed.
Excluding multiple filings, only 13 of these cases were filed in the first half of this year, compared with 21 in the same period of 1998.
Head of the IT group at Nabarro Nathanson, Dai Davis, said while many companies were likely to experience Y2K related problems, the UK was unlikely to see a rash of cases being filed in the next few months.
UK companies were fundamentally less litigious than their US counterparts and were more likely to seek out of court settlements rather than seven figure court awarded damages, Davis said.
Unlike the US, companies here could not file class action suits and taking court action could prove extremely expensive for individual companies, he said.
IT partner at Oxley and Coward, Deryck Houghton agreed that most users felt that working closely with suppliers was a more effective means of rectifying problems than taking them to court.
"There's a heavy focus on getting systems fixed rather than reaching for the writs," Houghton said.
For their part, suppliers had been swift to minimise potential exposure by cooperating with customers to rectify problems, Houghton said.
Users who went down the litigation route could be looking to secure their own positions by publicly passing the blame to others, he said.
Most IT vendors were headquartered in the US and a number of lawyers contacted by VNU Newswire concurred that users were more likely to file suits against them on their home turf, where the prospects of large damages settlements were much greater.
Nabarro Nathanson's Davis said there had been great impetus for companies to settle IT disputes privately in the past and the Y2K issue was unlikely to prove different.
Author of the PWC litigation report, Philip Upton, said the firm had undertaken the study to take some of the hype out of the Y2K litigation issue.
However, historically most cases tended to be filed after, rather than before, the event in question and the New Year could see more companies taking action against suppliers, Upton warned.
"With the exception of insurance cases, we may find that there is a lull in the number of cases filed between now and the end of 1999," Upton said.
UK government watchdog Action 2000 earlier this week said users could face major litigation problems if they do not solve their millennium bug problems. (see Newswire 23 August, 1999)
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