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PalmOne settles m500 synchro class action

Offers replacement kit, cash to plaintiff

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PalmOne has agreed to settle a class action brought against it earlier this year by Palm m500-series owners who alleged that the PDA maker had knowingly sold them defective devices.

The case centred on the difficulties some Palm m500 and m505 handhelds experienced when attempting to synchronise with a host PC. A variety of explanations were touted at the time, but the most commonly expressed theory was that the devices were subject to static electricity discharges when placed in the synchronisation/recharge cradle. The discharges were believed to disrupt the synchronisation process.

The problem appeared in July 2001, shortly after the m500 and m505 were launched by Palm, as the company was called back then. By November, PalmOne had acknowledged the fault and offered replacement cradles and handhelds free of charge. It said the issue was not sufficiently widespread to warrant a product recall.

The class action suit was initiated by one Cliff Eley over a year later, in January this year. He claims that PalmOne knew about the problem all along, but shipped the m500 and m505 anyway, hoping that relatively few buyers would be troubled by it.

PalmOne denies the charge, and stresses that the agreed settlement implies no acknowledgement of the veracity of Eley's claim. The deal will provide class action members with a new sync cradle. If that doesn't help, they'll get an SD card containing software to reset the device. If that fails to satisfy, PalmOne will send them a replacement handheld. All of which, is pretty much what PalmOne had offered anyway.

For his part, Eley gets $1000, and the right to apply for PalmOne to pay his legal costs up to $500,000.

The settlement has first to win the approval of the San Francisco Superior Court of California, Judge Richard A Kramer presiding. The settlement will be put before the Court at a hearing to be held on 22 December. The Judge will hear the terms of the deal and any objections from class action members. ®

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