Legal Alternatives for Y2K

With this past month’s signing of Senate Bill 96 (the Y2K Act), businesses must now consider litigation alternatives in order to resolve disputes quickly and to prevent potentially crippling work stoppages, according to the JUSTUS Year 2000 Mediation Group. Additionally, companies should seek solutions that will help them maintain business relationships after Y2K disputes are resolved.

Highlights of the Y2K Act include a mandatory 90-day waiting period following a Year 2000 computer bug-related injury before a lawsuit can be filed; mitigation of damages for both parties; limitations on liability; and punitive damages. The intent of this legislation is to require parties to try and resolve disputes before costly and lengthy litigation can begin.

According to David Ward Murphy, Mediation Director for the JUSTUS Year 2000 Mediation Group, businesses should understand implications of the "cooling off" period. Murphy says Y2K computer problems could cause work stoppages or equipment shutdowns. Because there is no immediate remedy available from the courts, affected companies should consider mediation to stay in business.

"In mediation, the goal is to communicate effectively and quickly find a solution that is beneficial for both sides. This is especially important considering the Y2K Act, and the immediate impact the Year 2000 problem is expected to have on businesses," Murphy says.

Heather Heidelbaugh, a JUSTUS Mediator; Partner and Chair of the Year 2000 Practice Group with the law firm Burns, White and Hickton; and author of the book Year 2000 Compliance: Is Your Company Ready? notes that mediation is an effective way to keep previous business relationships alive after a dispute is resolved.

The JUSTUS Y2K Mediation Group is part of JUSTUS ADR Services, a division of M.A.N.A., Ltd. (Mediation, Arbitration, North America), based in Pittsburgh. JUSTUS ADR specializes in resolving a range of disputes quickly and cost-effectively, including Year 2000, tort, insurance, employment and discrimination claims.