HP ‘misled’ court over disk drive defects

Legal cudgels are out

California's attorney general has accused Hewlett-Packard of misleading court investigators by hiring its expert witness in a case concerning defective floppy disk controllers found in millions of PCs.

HP paid $27.5m in 2000 to license a patented floppy disk controller software patch from Philip Adams, the expert witness, the Wall Street Journal reports. This looks like a bargain, considering that Toshiba paid $1.2bn in 2000 to settle complaints concerning a similar flaw.

The expert witness, Philip Adams, had alerted the law authorities to the defect, which caused the corruption of data when some information was transferred onto a floppy disk. But he switched horses mid-investigation, following the HP license payment. He has agreed to act as a witness for HP in any similar case. But now class action lawyers are sueing HP over this license agreement, according to Bloomberg.

An HP spokeswoman told Bloomberg yesterday that "in licensing the patented floppy disk controller software patch from Dr. Adams, the company acted entirely ethically and in the best interests of consumers,".

The office of California Attorney General Bill Lockyer attacked the "truly extraordinary conduct" of HP and Adams. It is seeking to prevent whistle-blowers from switching sides midstream, colluding with the defendants for financial gain and tundermining state cases, it told the WSJ. ®

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