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Microsoft Hit with Another Consumer Class Action Suit in Calif.

Logo - Los Angeles TimesNovember 23, 1999 | Los Angeles Times

By Ashley Dunn and Jube Shiver Jr.

Another class-action suit was filed Monday in California against Microsoft Corp., as part of a building wave of consumer lawsuits filed against the company following U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson’s finding that Microsoft is a predatory monopoly.

At least six class-action suits have been filed over the past 10 months in California alone, all claiming that the software giant used its monopoly power to overcharge consumers for its Windows 95 and 98 computer operating system, according to attorneys.

The latest suit was filed Monday in San Francisco Superior Court by lawyers Terry Gross and Francis Scarpulla of San Francisco, and Timothy Cohelan and Daniel Mogin of San Diego.

The suit was filed on behalf of two plaintiffs, Lilian Lea, a tax specialist, and Tortola Restaurants, a small chain of restaurants in San Francisco, Mogin said.

The attorneys are seeking to expand the plaintiffs to include all those in California who purchased Windows 95 or 98, Mogin said.

This case follows a similar class-action filing in Orange County, Calif., on Nov. 15.

“People are trying to jump on the anti-Microsoft bandwagon,” said Eugene Volokh, a professor of cyberspace law at the University of California, Los Angeles. “But you have to remember that Microsoft is a very heavy body and it’s going to be hard to move.”

None of the suits list specific damages, but they do ask for triple damages if they are successful — a feature that could drive the awards in the cases into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Microsoft spokesman Tom Pilla called the suits “baseless.”

The threat of numerous class-action suits across the United States gives a greater incentive for Microsoft to settle the government’s antitrust case, because a settlement could prevent Jackson’s findings from being used in other cases.

But Alan M. Mansfield, an attorney who filed the Orange County suit, said he intends to continue with his case even if Microsoft settles its federal antitrust case.