PC makers hit with 'copycat' suits

Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, NEC Packard-Bell and e-Machines hit with suits over allegedly flawed floppy-disk controller

Toshiba's massive $2.1billion (£1.28bn) settlement for using a potentially flawed floppy-disk controller is already causing ripples, which may yet turn into tidal waves.

On Sunday night, four new suits were filed in US District Court in Beaumont, Texas, against PC makers Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, NEC Packard-Bell and e-Machines. Toshiba on Friday settled a class-action suit that alleged it had knowingly sold computers with a floppy-disk controller that could cause data loss.

The Texas court that accepted the filings against HP, Compaq, NEC Packard-Bell and e-Machines is the same one that would have heard the Toshiba case, had it not been settled.

According to the complaints, which ask for class-action status to be granted, "Plaintiff has obtained documents that show that Defendant has known of faulty FDCs (floppy disk controllers) such as those at issue in this lawsuit for an extended period of time."

The case appears to closely follow the case Toshiba chose to settle, and a Compaq official called the suit a "copycat" filing.

"It appears to be a copycat suit to the recent case settled by Toshiba," said Alan Hodel, a Compaq spokesman. He said Compaq plans to fight the case in court.

"We believe the vague claims that are outlined in the complaint are completely baseless and without merit."

Hodel noted that the Toshiba case revolved around microcode issues specific to Toshiba. Compaq is confident that its products "don't have that problem," he said.

A Hewlett-Packard spokeswoman declined comment, saying that the company had not yet seen the suit.