Suing Over Y2K

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WASHINGTON: Fearful that the only people celebrating on New Year's Eve will be the trial lawyers, the Senate is releasing a report on Y2K this week that will recommend that the apocalypse not be legally actionable. The report is the most comprehensive yet on the doomsday bug, and a rather alarmist one at that -- Y2K is a "worldwide crisis" and "one of the most serious and potentially devastating events this nation has ever encountered," according to a draft copy leaked to the Washington Post. But even more devastating, said Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) on Tuesday, would be the estimated $1 trillion in lawsuits that would result from delays and glitches -- he's pushing for passage of a House bill to allay "a great deal of fear regarding out-of-control litigation."

special The bill is fervently backed by -- surprise -- the business community, and from the looks of the report the nation's industry has lots to worry about. More than 90 percent of doctors' offices and 50 percent of small- and medium-size companies have not addressed the Y2K problem. Local 911 service may be on the fritz. But there's good news: Telephone and air-traffic control systems appear to be squared away, and Alan Greenspan took time out Tuesday to assure Chicken Little types that "there's almost no conceivable way... that computers will break down and records of people's savings accounts would disappear." But the report did worry about international commerce, noting that two of the U.S.' major trading partners, Venezuela and Japan, are woefully behind. Those may be two very good places to start a law practice.