Class action lawsuits begin haunting Microsoft

Microsoft's antitrust nightmare became even scarier this week as several class action lawsuits were launched across the country in response to the findings of fact, released two weeks ago by Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson. In one such lawsuit, filed in San Francisco allege that Microsoft Corporation violated California state law by charging too much for Windows. In a related case in Ohio, a lawyer charged Microsoft with overcharging its customers as much as $10 billion. Both suits are seeking damages, and penalties could reach the tens of billions of dollars should they be successful.

In the San Francisco suit, lawyers claim that California Windows users "paid more for Windows than they would have paid in the absence of \[an\] illegal \[monopoly\]." According to Judge Jackson's findings of fact, Microsoft could have charged $49 for the Windows 98 upgrade, but charged $89 because there was nothing preventing them from doing so. The California suit is using that $40 difference as a legal basis and lawyers for the case say they'd be happy to see any judge base conclusions of law on Jackson's findings of fact.

"We have estimates that consumers have been collectively overcharged $10 billion \[by Microsoft Corporation\]," said Stanley Chesley, a prominent attorney representing the Ohio class action lawsuit against Microsoft. He says a legal victory could cost Microsoft more than three times that figure.

Other suits have been launched in Alabama, Louisiana, and New York. Some are federal lawsuits while others are state cases.

"It's unfortunate that plaintiffs' attorneys have decided to file baseless lawsuits," said Microsoft spokesperson Jim Cullinan. "We believe our actions have been pro-competitive and fully legal."

Meanwhile, Microsoft's lawyers are busing hammering out a settlement with lawyers from the 19 states and DOJ, which sued Microsoft last year for violating U.S. antitrust laws

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