PC resellers to meet Fujitsu on hard disk issue

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PC resellers to meet Fujitsu on hard disk issue

Two resellers that purchased thousands of defective Fujitsu hard drives will attempt mediation on the issue of financial damages before the long-running case goes to trial in the Federal Court sometime next year.

The resellers, Webster Computer Systems and Anabelle Bits (which trades as ASI Solutions), have been locked in a battle with Fujitsu after purchasing the MPG3 series hard disk drives in 2000.

Anabelle Bits purchased approximately 17,000 Fujitsu drives that were placed into computers which it manufactured and sold to resellers and end users.

The drives contained a previously untried component that was defective and caused "a substantial number of hard drives to fail."

The resellers claimed Fujitsu knew of the problem but did not quickly inform them of it - and in September last year won the right to pursue Japanese parent Fujitsu Limited for financial "relief".

"The first respondent [Fujitsu Limited] has conceded that by purchasing the MPG3XXXAT hard disk drives which included defective parts, the applicant [Anabelle Bits] suffered damage," the September 2009 court ruling stated.

"I am satisfied, on the evidence presently available, that Anabelle Bits Pty Ltd has a prima facie case for the relief claimed by it against Fujitsu Limited in the proceeding."

Trial dates pushed back

But delays in filing affidavits and the availability of Fujitsu's counsel Peter Brereton looked set to push any trial back until at least mid-July of next year.

The resellers had, however, agreed to a round of mediation with Fujitsu later this year, it emerged in a directions hearing in the Federal Court today.

"It's fair to say that damages is a reasonably large part of the issues which would be in dispute," said Patrick Flynn, a barrister representing the resellers.

"The parties have agreed to mediation [without a court order]."

"One never knows - sometimes mediation succeeds," Brereton said.

Flynn said that evidence filings by the resellers would "be closed in two weeks".

He said a "short two-to-three-page affidavit by one of the service technicians" from Webster was yet to be filed.

He also said an affidavit by Anabelle Bits managing director Kenneth Lowe had been sworn today and that an "expert report" would be served within a fortnight.

But Fujitsu's counsel Peter Brereton said that a ruling last year had required evidence to be "served and filed by April 6" of 2010 and that there had "been a series of further extensions from this time" to allow the resellers to file the affidavits.

Hopes had "faded away" of holding a trial in November this year, according to Flynn, citing Fujitsu's position.

Justice Dennis Cowdroy indicated he "had in mind March" 2011 for the trial but, upon submissions by Brereton of his commitments to another case and of "issues around language and translation" of affidavits for Japan's Fujitsu, agreed that a "mid-to-late July" 2011 timeframe was likely, without setting a date.

Cowdroy was mindful of not allowing "the matter to languish" or "fade away."

Further directions were set for September 28.

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