Relief from computer glitches

Y2K: State firms need protection if they act in good faith to fix computers and things go wrong.

April 09, 1999

WHY IS the governor threatening to block bills that would partially shield companies and local governments in the event of computer glitches when Year 2000 arrives?

The House-passed business-protection bill (approved 136-1) contains sensible amendments that exclude product liability, wrongful death, personal injury or worker's compensation claims as a result of any computer foul-ups. The bill also forces companies to take a series of stringent -- and costly -- steps to become Year 2000 compliant before they can be shielded from other lawsuits.

Yet Gov. Parris N. Glendening persists in threatening a veto. Could it be related to the fact that the Maryland Trial Lawyers Association, which is noisily crowing about the governor's tough stance, gave Mr. Glendening the maximum $12,000 campaign contribution last year?

Political paybacks are common in Annapolis, but not usually on such an important and time-urgent bill. Failure by the governor to approve this measure could expose Maryland businesses to a blizzard of multimillion dollar lawsuits if anything goes wrong when computers read the date "00" as meaning 1900 instead of 2000.

If anything, passage of this bill should energize businesses to accelerate their Y2K compliance to qualify for some protection. Only businesses that implement a computer fix "in good faith" and in a "reasonably prudent" manner could benefit from the bill.

Another measure to protect local governments from Y2K lawsuits has also been threatened with a veto. This bill creates a standard of reasonable actions governments must take to gain a legal shield. Without it, plaintiffs' lawyers would have a field day suing governments for even modest problems stemming from computer snafus. Taxpayers would suffer.

Both amended bills deserve passage -- and the governor's signature.

Pub Date: 4/09/99

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