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A lawsuit alleging that Microsoft established a monopoly, stifled competition and overcharged Florida consumers has been granted class action status by a Miami-Dade Circuit judge. Judge Bernard S. Shapiro last week agreed to grant certification to a case brought by several Florida consumers who allege that Microsoft violated the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act by using its monopoly in the operating system and software markets to choke off competition and charge buyers inflated prices. The class includes Floridians who purchased the Microsoft Windows operating system or a variety of Microsoft software, such as Word or Excel, from November 1995 to the present. The suit was filed in November 1999. Florida consumers who are injured by a violation of the state unfair trade law may seek to recover monetary damages. If Microsoft is found liable, a big issue in the case is determining how much consumers would be repaid. At hearings before Shapiro in April and May, Microsoft attorneys arguing against certification asserted that distribution of Microsoft products is so complex that any classwide damage calculation is impossible. But Shapiro rejected that argument and determined there are methods available that can reasonably estimate any overcharges. The plaintiffs are being represented by Robert L. Parks, a partner with Haggard Parks Haggard & Bologna in Coral Gables, Fla. In a news release, Parks said, “The evidence presented to the court clearly indicated that the plaintiffs are adequate class representatives for this putative class action.” Parks declined further comment. Microsoft is being represented by Hilarie Bass, a partner and national litigation chair at Greenberg Traurig in Miami. She could not be reached by deadline. The ruling adds Florida to a list of states that have certified similar class action lawsuits against Microsoft.

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