Judge finalizes $2.1 billion Toshiba laptop settlement

A federal court in Beaumont, Texas, has finalized a $2.1 billion settlement in a class-action lawsuit accusing Toshiba Corp. of selling laptop computers with defective disk drives.

The agreement, a preliminary version of which was announced on Oct. 29, includes $147.5 million in attorneys’ fees. U.S. District Judge Thad Heartfield signed an order approving the deal Jan. 28, calling it a fair and reasonable settlement.

In March 1999, plaintiffs Ethan Shaw, an attorney, and Clive D. Moon, a retiree, sued Toshiba for unspecified damages and sought an injunction to cease production of the hardware. Shaw and Moon contend they purchased computers with defective floppy disk controller chips that corrupted or deleted data.

The company, which leads the U.S. laptop computer market, said that it does not admit legal liability or even acknowledge the possibility of a defect in its notebook computers. In announcing the preliminary settlement, Toshiba said its was not aware of any instance in which a Toshiba computer owner lost data in the manner described in the lawsuit.

The money not paid to attorneys will be given back to millions of Toshiba laptop owners in the form of coupons, cash, and hardware or software replacements to repair the alleged defect.

Similar lawsuits against four other companies–Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Inc., Packard Bell NEC Electronics Inc., and eMachines–are pending in federal and state courts.

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