×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Man Sues Gateway Because He Can't Read EULA

CowboyNeal posted more than 6 years ago | from the no-really-they-didn't-let-him dept.

Displays 666

Scoopy writes "California resident Dennis Sheehan took Gateway to small claims court after he reportedly received a defective computer and little technical support from the PC manufacturer. Gateway responded with their own lawyer and a 2-inch thick stack of legal docs, and claimed that Sheehan violated the EULA, which requires that users give up their right to sue and settle these cases in private arbitration. Sheehan responded that he never read the EULA, which pops up when the user first starts the computer, because the graphics were scrambled — precisely the problem he had complained to tech support in the first place. A judge sided with Sheehan on May 24 and the case will proceed to small claims court. A lawyer is quoted as saying that Sheehan, a high school dropout who is arguing his own case, is in for a world of hurt: 'This poor guy now faces daunting reality of having to litigate this on appeal against Gateway...By winning, he's lost.'"

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

666 comments

"By winning, he's lost." (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19431641)

Fuck that. He already lost (at life) when he dropped out of high school.

Re:"By winning, he's lost." (5, Insightful)

Hucko (998827) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431923)

Abraham Lincoln would have been proud then.

And these blokes [askmen.com] need to re-evaluate what they are doing in life


Having said that Abe Lincoln probably would have preferred to finish/receive an education.

When you buy a new PC... (2, Interesting)

Paktu (1103861) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431647)

Doesn't a new Gateway (or any other major OEM) also come with driver CDs, manuals, etc., that have the EULA in print?

Re:When you buy a new PC... (1, Insightful)

froggero1 (848930) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431701)

even if it was in print, i'm sure he didn't sign it, and therefore, still did not agree to it.

Re:When you buy a new PC... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19431791)

Sorry, but the agreement states that you agree to it automatically by hitting the "I agree" button. Signatures really are rarely necessary to create a legal contract (granted they help ensure them, but things are often contracts without them).

Re:When you buy a new PC... (5, Informative)

froggero1 (848930) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431823)

if you even read the summary, you'd see that he in fact, could not see an "I agree" button.

Re:When you buy a new PC... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19431713)

Never mind the readability. If I see a hardware EULA, here are the possible results:
  • Contract of sale is already closed, EULA is not valid -- end of story
  • Contract of sale is already closed, EULA is valid -- computer unfit for purpose for which it was sold (won't compute unless I agree to more limitations)
  • Contract of sale is not yet closed, EULA is valid -- I don't agree, so it's refund time

Re:When you buy a new PC... (4, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431715)

Generally, yes. Gateway has traditionally included its agreements in the box. Practically this exact same case has been tried before:

http://www.badsoftware.com/hill.htm [badsoftware.com]

Re:When you buy a new PC... (3, Interesting)

erbmjw (903229) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431813)

IANAL but I believe that the EULA must be read and 'agreed to' before it takes effect. So even if he read the paper document if he was not able to "click" on "I agree" ( or whatever ) then they can't claim he gave up his rights.

A contract need not be read to be effective (5, Informative)

MikePlacid (512819) | more than 6 years ago | (#19432051)

From the previous link (an appelate court decision):

A contract need not be read to be effective; people who accept take the risk that the unread terms may in retrospect prove unwelcome.

A vendor, as master of the offer, may invite acceptance by conduct, and may propose limitations on the kind of conduct that constitutes acceptance. A buyer may accept by performing the acts the vendor proposes to treat as acceptance." Id. at 1452. Gateway shipped computers with the same sort of accept-or-return offer ProCD made to users of its software.

Re:When you buy a new PC... (5, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#19432077)

Three words: Uniform Commercial Code [wikipedia.org]

It's a modification to contract law that is intended to make in-box agreements legal. The point of the law is to speed up transactions in cases where the cost involved in drafting a proper contract would negate the value of the transaction. Therefore the law provides the consumer the opportunity to review the contractual information in the form of a pack-in contract, which the consumer is free to reject by returning the product. Using the product constitutes acceptance of the contract.

Given that courts have ruled this legal several times (see: ProCD, Inc. v. Zeidenberg, Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute, and - of course - Rich Hill and Enza Hill, v. Gateway 2000, Inc.), consumers should BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU AGREE TO. If the terms of the contract are considered reasonable, you may be held to them in a court of law.

Caveat Emptor.

Re:When you buy a new PC... (5, Interesting)

Paracelcus (151056) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431825)

I never boot up a new PC without a Linux installation CD in the CDROM/DVD drive after having first checked the BIOS to make sure that it's set as the first boot device!

So, because I did it this way, I never get to see Gateway's boot screen EULA, therefore I am never bound by it? Or does blowing away the contents of their HDD also violate some obscure law?

Re:When you buy a new PC... (1)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431931)

Or does blowing away the contents of their HDD also violate some obscure law?
It will now!

Re:When you buy a new PC... (4, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431939)

And what happens if you boot it, read the EULA, then decide that you don't agree with it, click 'disagree' and install a different OS (or even Windows from a non-Gateway disk)?

The only possible way in which a EULA would be legal would be if it granted you some right that you didn't already have. The legal technicality that is used by software is that copying the program from the install media to your disk and then to RAM requires extra rights (not valid in all jurisdictions). For hardware, there is no such loophole. If you didn't agree to the contract before sale, then they can't enforce it afterwards.

Re:When you buy a new PC... (2, Insightful)

epee1221 (873140) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431981)

The legal technicality that is used by software is that copying the program from the install media to your disk and then to RAM requires extra rights (not valid in all jurisdictions).
And America is one of those jurisdictions where you have those rights anyway [bitlaw.com].

Re:When you buy a new PC... (4, Funny)

Jon Luckey (7563) | more than 6 years ago | (#19432047)

... that have the EULA in print?

Actually, thanks to this guy, every Gateway purchaser will have to listen to a .WAV of the EULA played through the speakers (including the motherboard P.O.S.T speaker) as well as read it on the screen.

???? Lawyers are idiots !!!!! (1)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431649)

"This poor guy now faces daunting reality of having to litigate this on appeal against Gateway...By winning, he's lost."
Bullshirt!!!

Re:???? Lawyers are idiots !!!!! (5, Interesting)

burnin1965 (535071) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431805)

Bullshirt!!!

Heh, my sentiment exactly when I read that line. If Gateway sends a lawyer to small claims court with "vast legal and financial resources" the judge is likely to put Gateway's lawyer into a world of hurt. As a small claims court judge its more likely that the judge will be unimpressed by big lawyer shenannigans in a common sense small claims court.

Re:???? Lawyers are idiots !!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19432107)

I don't think the appeal will be in the small claims court.

Re:???? Lawyers are idiots !!!!! (4, Insightful)

Vicissidude (878310) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431807)

Exactly. He's already made Gateway spend money not only on his tech support calls, but on a lawyer who doesn't come cheap. At some point, it will be in Gateway's interest to just cut their losses and refund the money. The longer he holds out, the more likely that will happen.

Re:???? Lawyers are idiots !!!!! (3, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431933)

On the other hand, those guys are generally bought-and-paid for, and many corporations seem to feel that it's in their best interests never to be seen losing.

Re:???? Lawyers are idiots !!!!! (1)

Paracelcus (151056) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431873)

You can get a Shyster to say anything as long as you pay him/her, why do you think the were called "mouthpieces".

Re:???? Lawyers are idiots !!!!! (1)

crAckZ (1098479) | more than 6 years ago | (#19432071)

By winning, he's lost."

they are just pissed that a dropout presented it and got it going. their big law degrees could'nt stop a dropout.
i bet they thought they would walk in, make a motion to dismiss on (*) grounds, and mouth fell to the ground when the judge found in favor of the plantiff. haha

EULAs are not meant to be read (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431651)

Seriously. Have you? Can you keep a straight face and tell me you read all those legalese crap? I didn't.

First of all, it can be summed up into "We may do everything, you may do nothing, essentially, you're a dork for using our software". And second, almost all of them violate our consumer protection laws.

So, why bother wasting time?

Re:EULAs are not meant to be read (5, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431711)

The thing that irritates me most is installers that force you to read and agree to a Free Software license before using the program. Free Software licenses are distribution licenses, not EULAs, and so there is no need to agree to them, or even read them, before using the software.

Re:EULAs are not meant to be read (5, Insightful)

noidentity (188756) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431751)

Mod parent up. An author who makes the GPL/LGPL into an EULA for their program clearly doesn't even understand the license at its most basic level.

Re:EULAs are not meant to be read (2, Informative)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431795)

Actually I had the understanding that a lot of installer makers force you to have an EULA, so they just put the GPL in them trying to be cutesy. I have seen a few that just said "Click 'I agree' below". It's worth noting, here on Linux, the only EULA I ever seen was when I installed flash.

Re:EULAs are not meant to be read (2, Interesting)

djmurdoch (306849) | more than 6 years ago | (#19432007)

Actually I had the understanding that a lot of installer makers force you to have an EULA,

So why not use an open source installer? On Windows Inno Setup [jrsoftware.org] is very good; it doesn't force you to do this. (R [r-project.org] offers the GPL in an information screen, with instructions saying "Please read", and "When you are ready to continue, click Next". I think that's about the right level: you want users to be aware of the GPL, but they don't need to accept it to do an installation.)

Re:EULAs are not meant to be read (5, Insightful)

Nasarius (593729) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431889)

Amen. Unfortunately, that includes such prominent packages as the Windows binary installers for Pidgin and OpenOffice. OOo is particularly bad in that it forces you to read and accept the LGPL before installing. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I'll read the license when I want to do something that's not already implicitly legal, thanks. Stamp it with an open-source logo or something if you want to advertise the fact that this is OSS and not just freeware. Don't propagate the notion that I need your permission to run your software.

Re:EULAs are not meant to be read (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19431821)

Yeah, who reads EULAs?

Lawyers read EULAs, Law School graduates read EULAs.

Any user gets bored after the first 3 lines of an EULA. They seem to be deliberately unintelligible for the common user.

Most of them, not all, are worded in such a manner that it will take a judge or a team of solicitors weeks to make out it's real consequences.

How on earth is a mere mortal supposed to defend himself (or indeed understand what he's defending himself from) from the implications of a cryptic document which takes you 4+ years in law school to understand?

Re:EULAs are not meant to be read (4, Funny)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431869)

Absolutely. I am almost done reading an EULA on my other PC. When I am done, I look forward to finishing building my Win 95 system, working off of 3.1 sucks!

Re:EULAs are not meant to be read (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19431887)

Instead of some random open source rant, that would be my question to Bill Gates if he makes a public appearance: "Do we really have to read the EULAs of Microsoft products? If so, do you realize how long and painful this is to your consumers?"

I really wonder what his answer would be to it. Bonus points for actually reading a MS EULA before showing up and quoting how much time it did take.

Re:EULAs are not meant to be read (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19432013)

My grandfather did. He printed every single one of them out. Read them, and put them in a binder. He's dead now. I think the EULA's killed him.

lawyer is a jerk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19431661)

Sounds like sour grapes from a classless lawyer. Mr. Sheehan won, I have no reason to believe he won't win the appeal. Good on you sir!

A lawyer is quoted as saying... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19431671)

you're fscked! Hire me!

All 'not saying / just saying' aside, this could prove an interesting testbed for EULAs of this nature.

How (3, Interesting)

obeythefist (719316) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431679)

How thoroughly have these agreements been tested in court prior to this event?

Nobody actually reads EULA's, right? I'd say at least 99.9% of EULAs are just clicked on through without any consideration for the implications.

Does the reality of 99.9% of cases over-rule the law?

Re:How (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431963)

i'd say the vast majority of EULAs I click through start, "GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE

Version 2, June 1991

Copyright (C) 1989, 1991 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
51 Franklin Street, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110-1301, USA

Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies
of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.

Preamble..."

Re:How (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19432053)

IANAL, as should be obvious by this comment.

Is a developer who uses that particular familiar heading for his EULA really obliged to use the GPL and nothing else as his license terms? I.e., could the EULA end with a "also, by using this software, you forfeit the right to raise your firstborn son" clause(after the entire, unmodified GPL) and still have it be a valid EULA? (For increased protection against the casual EULA-scroller, dual-license and end the EULA with the appended complete BSD license.)

I'd say very few mentally healthy people read through licenses completely every time if they believe they're already familiar with the license.

Re:How (3, Interesting)

Jeffrey Baker (6191) | more than 6 years ago | (#19432019)

I'm no attorney and don't really know anything about the law, so please consider my reply at face value. That said, it's difficult for me to imagine how an EULA could seem enforceable to anyone who hasn't been through the law school brainwash. You go to the store and buy some software in a box. Your agreement is with the retailer, not the maker of the software. There doesn't seem to be any way for a third party (the maker of the software) to insinuate itself into the transaction.

Now that's just me and common sense talking, and I'm aware of the fact that the legal system abandoned common sense at some point in the 20th century, but I believe as a general principle there's no way an EULA could be enforced.

Re:How (1)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 6 years ago | (#19432033)

Just to play devil's advocate - If you sign a paper contract without reading it thoroughly, you're still liable for what you sign. Why would that change when it becomes electronic?

Re:How (1)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 6 years ago | (#19432089)

you're still liable for what you sign.
You don't sign a EULA. The EULA claims that you accept the terms by USING the product.

EULA (1)

Zironic (1112127) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431687)

It would be nice if he managed to once and for all break the legality of EULAs. Most likely won't happen but one can indulge in fantasy.

The whole concept of a contract no one ever bothers to read is silly. Not to mention that often allot of the clauses break the law.

Re:EULA (2, Insightful)

epee1221 (873140) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431769)

I don't think the legality/enforceability of EULAs in general is being disputed here. Gateway is saying Sheehan can't sue because it's forbidden in the EULA, and Sheehan is saying he never saw or agreed to the EULA. I think all we could use this as precedent for is enforcing a EULA that the customer simply may have seen and agreed to, and I doubt that will fly here.

(IANAL)

Re:EULA (2, Informative)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431957)

sounds like the windows eula i had once "by opening this box you agree to the terms listed inside" it's a violation of contract law to ask someone to agree to something you haven't allowed them to see.

i seriously doubt gateway will win this. you can't tell someone they have no right to legal recourse either, to allow that strips the courts of their power and doubt they will be happy about that attempt.

Re:EULA (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#19432015)

It has happened before. In quite a few countries, the EULAs can be safely ignored. It is for example still legal in some countries to disassemble code (something pretty much every EULA forbids), and you cannot forfeit this right. Down the drain with the EULA, because one part of it is illegal.

And yes, I know the disclaimers saying "if one part of this is void, the rest stands". Nu-uh. Sorry, if part of your contract is illegal or "against good customs", the whole contract is void.

So yes, the EULA is for me a click and wave past. It ain't binding.

what with companies ? (4, Insightful)

mikee805 (1091195) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431691)

Dont companies these days thing its a bad thing to sue their own customers? Let alone make headlines for doing? Really what do they gain?

Re:what with companies ? (0)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431937)

In this case? Possibly a precedent that not reading the EULA's is definitively NOT an excuse despite the way EULA's are treated in the real world.

The only legislation here that i pray for though is forcing any document that a user is LEGALLY BOUND to read must be limited to a certain length.

Re:what with companies ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19431985)

Just to reiterate this for you: "Man Sues Gateway Because He Can't Read EULA"

He sued them, not vice versa.

Now, just in case you get ideas, he didn't sue them just because he was illiterate (like you), it was because of screen corruption.

Maybe try taking your brain out of neutral before posting next time ? :)

Re:what with companies ? (1)

TenBrothers (995309) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431993)

They aren't suing their customer, they are defending themselves in a suit.

Re:what with companies ? (1)

mikee805 (1091195) | more than 6 years ago | (#19432023)

You are right, I wasnt being literal. After being sued instead of doing their best to rectify the situation they instead chose to fight. And judging by the comments made they seem to want to make this guy pay.

Re:what with companies ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19431999)

The _customer_ took the _company_ to small claims court. The company isn't going to sue the customer except for either non-payment or severe libel.

Re:what with companies ? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#19432029)

Think it's a bad thing? Are you kidding? The RIAA based their revenue system on that, judging by the inane claims of damages.

Re:what with companies ? (2, Insightful)

wytcld (179112) | more than 6 years ago | (#19432031)

What's the difference between Gateway and HP? They both slap together computers from cheap components. But Gateway's struggling to survive now while HP has pulled ahead of even Dell. So the difference? HP's stuff breaks as often as Gateway's or Dell's, but they're real solid about fixing or replacing it, while with Dell you're likely dealing with someone who nearly speaks English, and with Gateway - well I wouldn't know. Back in the early 90s I used to have my firm buy Gateways, and the warranty replacements were handled okay. Now it looks like you have to take them to court - and their business strategy is to forbid you to take them to court.

I predict they won't be in business for much longer.

Re:what with companies ? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#19432057)

Dont companies these days thing its a bad thing to sue their own customers? Let alone make headlines for doing? Really what do they gain?

Is reading at least the summary, if not TFA such a bad idea? (You too moderators.) Heck - at least just read the bleeding title!
 
Gateway isn't suing, they are being sued.

bet he's a nigga (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19431695)

shiiiiit!

bet lawyers are jews (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19431855)

Oi Vey!

Re:bet lawyers are jews (-1, Flamebait)

Paracelcus (151056) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431967)

Give me a shot at circumsizing you, since you are obviously a goyim let me make it easy, just put your tiny little pecker in my poultry shears and "presto" you'll never have to use a condom again, you mindless shaygitz putz!

Actual protest sign at Brown v Board: (1)

WilliamSChips (793741) | more than 6 years ago | (#19432005)

The one thing I remember most from AP US History class was this image of protesters against the Brown v. Board of Education decision. One of them had a sign saying "COMMUNIST JEWS BEHIND RACE-MIXING". That sign made me realize just how ridiculous racism and anticommunism was.

Small Claims (4, Informative)

stox (131684) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431703)

I'm sure someone will set me straight if I am wrong, but in small claims court, doesn't the complaintant always represent themselves? And that court is structured to deal with such?

Re:Small Claims (1)

morari (1080535) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431847)

Yes. That's kind of the point of small claims. I'm sure that a large corporation would still be represented by a lawyer, however.

Re:Small Claims (1)

Chuckstar (799005) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431899)

Depends on the state. Just as an example, in Pennsylvania there is no court entitled "Small Claims", but there is a "Magisterial Court" that decides similar cases (dollar amounts below a certain threshold). The press often refers to this as "small claims court". Magisterial Court cases are formal trials: you can be represented by counsel, witnesses are called, closing arguments are made and you better make all of your points because the judge doesn't ask follow-up questions like in some states' small claims court.

Re:Small Claims (5, Informative)

ari_j (90255) | more than 6 years ago | (#19432091)

In most places with a separate small claims court, no lawyers are allowed. Virginia has something similar to what you are describing, which is its General District Court. The GDC sits without a jury and has looser procedural rules than the Circuit Court, which is the trial court that can have juries and has more power. The Circuit Court cannot hear cases from $4,500 down. The GDC cannot hear cases over $15,000. You can have a lawyer in either of those courts. There is also a small claims division within the GDC, which cannot hear cases above $5,000 and where lawyers are not allowed. Even when they let someone other than the actual party go to small claims court on the party's behalf (incapacitated people, corporations, etc.), they generally let you have anyone go except for lawyers.

But every state is unique, and it seems that the relevant one here permits lawyers in small claims court, which is kind of a shame. (The alternative is that Gateway removed the case from small claims court to a "real" court, which is sometimes a right that defendants have when sued in small claims court.)

As to all the EULA talk, please don't post comments about it until you've read at least the section on their enforceability in the Wikipedia article, which provides a fairly decent summary of the varying law in the area: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EULA#Enforceability [wikipedia.org]. The section on shrink-wrap licenses in the same article is also pertinent, and includes links to other, more prominent cases where Gateway was sued over its EULA. The bad news is that nobody can tell you whether a given EULA will be enforced, given all the things on which their enforceability depends. Never trust a blanket statement that EULAs are or are not enforceable.

Re:Small Claims (2, Insightful)

AlterTick (665659) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431943)

in small claims court, doesn't the complaintant always represent themselves? And that court is structured to deal with such?
Yes, but you can bring a lawyer to represent you if you want, and corporations essentially have no one BUT a lwayer to send. Small claims judges don't like lawyer bullshit gamesmanship, though. If Gateway sends a slick lawyer to try to bring a "world of hurt" down on Sheehan, the judge will tear him (the lawyer) a new asshole. Likely the appeal will consist of the judge telling Gateway "show me proof you didn't sell him a fucked up computer and then try to weasel out of refunding the purchase price, or crawl up your own asshole and die".

California Small Claims Process (5, Informative)

Evets (629327) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431709)

This was actually a pretty big win for him, and it means that the case will not drag on for years as the article suggests.

In California Small Claims (which this case was just kicked down to), an employee or executive of the company must be present at the trial - not a lawyer, and not somebody hired specifically for the purpose of defending the small claims suit.

If the defendant loses, there is exactly one possible appeal. At the appeal (to superior court), lawyers can appear, but the case is still treated as a small claims case (i.e. you aren't going to get out of it based on a legal technicality if that technicality violates the basic fairness of the case).

If Gateway doesn't send an employee, the appeal is going to be much harder because they have some pretty serious explaining to do as far as why the appeal should be heard. If they do send an employee, it is still tough because no new evidence can be presented at appeal so they will basically have to say that the judge was wrong and why.

Either way, this guy will have resolution within 120 days at the far side - as the appealin California for small claims must be filed within 30 days of the case being heard and if the appeal is approved, they put it on the docket pretty quickly.

Re:California Small Claims Process (1)

Hucko (998827) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431757)

Does a lawyer that is already a employee of the company count? or are they always outsourced?

Re:California Small Claims Process (3, Interesting)

Evets (629327) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431835)

I'm not entirely sure about a staff attorney, but if he is employed by the same company that is being sued you can probably get away with it - however, it's not an altogether shut and dry decision.

1) The staff attorney has no direct bearing on the matter in his employment capacity and can offer little in terms of evidence in the case.
2) The staff attorney will have to travel to the court location
3) The judge might not be so friendly with a lawyer in the courtroom (small claims judges are a different breed)

In any case, Gateway will be hard pressed to produce an employee who knows all the details of this situation AND who is willing and able to travel to El Dorado. The total judgement in the case at the high side would be less than $5,000.00 and they've already put time, money, and energy into the case that turns further investment into a bad business decision. If he wins the appeal and it still gets kicked to small claims, I expect gateway either will not show up, or they will settle with him prior to trial.

Re:California Small Claims Process (1)

knewter (62953) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431977)

There's a form you can fill out to give someone the ability to appear as an agent of the company in California Small Claims court, but that's in the case of being the plaintiff. I forget the form number.

Re:California Small Claims Process (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431989)

"I'm not entirely sure about a staff attorney, but if he is employed by the same company that is being sued you can probably get away with it - however, it's not an altogether shut and dry decision."

You are not "entirely sure"? Are you meaning that "maybe" an attorney office (since all its employees are attorneys) cannot claim or counterclaim at a minor offences court?

Re:California Small Claims Process (1)

KillerCow (213458) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431809)

an employee or executive of the company must be present at the trial - not a lawyer, and not somebody hired specifically for the purpose of defending the small claims suit. ...
If Gateway doesn't send an employee,


You don't think that Gateway has a lawyer on staff?

Re:California Small Claims Process (1)

sunset (182117) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431955)

So, um, why is it that Cliff Palefsky, "a San Francisco trial lawyer and expert on arbitration agreements" according to TFA, disagrees with you? I'd like to believe you, help me out here. :-)

critical mass (5, Insightful)

ribman (1066628) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431719)

I believe that we may be approaching critical mass (in decades or centuries, not years) within the imposition of legal absurdity upon humankind. I expect that the populace will ultimately become so oppressed by the duress of corporate greed that uses legal thuggery as it's enforcer, that humanity will just quit accepting it and reject the entire premise of law.
If there is wisdom within the world of corporate law, someone will realise that this is approaching and will work for internal reform, before external reform arrives as a consequence of insults to humanity like this.

Re:critical mass (2, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#19432081)

More laws create more criminals, but not more legality. Think about it, it will make sense.

When people don't understand a law, they will not uphold it. Worse, they will not support it, and at the utmost extreme, fight it. For reference, see prohibition laws or the whole legal system of the former Warsaw pact countries.

The worst thing that can happen to a state is that its subjects reject the whole legal system based on too many stupid laws. When it becomes impossible to NOT break a law, people start ignoring ALL laws. The effect is already visible in copyright laws. There are so many different, often contradicting, laws in existance that there is almost no way to steer clear of all obstacles and uphold all of them. You WILL break one. So people start thinking, why bother trying?

By reading this post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19431741)

By reading this post you agree that you own me $10.00 payable by paypal.
Failure to pay will require you to forgot this post and pay a non-refundable $15.00 fee.
Failure to forgot this post will require a $20.00 payment.

take a picture (1)

fordracerguy (927759) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431747)

How can we tell that the computer was indeed messed up while displaying the EULA? After watching Judge Judy, I would have to say that taking a physical picture of the scrambled screen would win or lose the case.

Re:take a picture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19431921)

Well he wouldn't know it was an EULA if it was scrambled. Perhaps also he didn't take a picture because he returned the computer as rightly broken before all this suing stuff came up. Maybe he didn't have the computer in his posession at a time that he would have thought about gathering evidence.

I suppose I could RTFA and find out more, but seeing as I'm also too lazy to log in, why bother.

What do Dennis Sheehan and Cindy Sheehan have in (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19431797)

common? They're both whiny commie demoncrat terrorists and should be treated as such.

Poor guy (2, Funny)

Soch (188557) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431799)

However good this guy may be, he's gonna have a hard time handling this without a computer!

Sorry but... (4, Funny)

Trojan35 (910785) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431815)

poor guy?

Poor guy? Yes, create more pity for him. After all, you sold him a defective computer, then refused to fix it. Then let the situation make it all the way to small claims court. You've got him right you want him.

Not easy being a computer user (5, Insightful)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431829)

Being a computer user is really tough sometimes: Not only do they expect you to be a computer expert, but they also expect you to be a legal expert.

Re:Not easy being a computer user (1)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#19432101)

Not only do they expect you to be a computer expert, but they also expect you to be a legal expert.

I hope he wins. It has always disgusted me that the computer industry is one of the few that can basically say, "Pay through the nose for our product and if it's defective, well, you have to upgrade."

Any other industry would have been out of business by now. Which I guess is what our society expects of technology: it's crap.

Now, my next post will be on American Medical care and why is it that I can't get a price, like I can with every other service on the planet, for my care before hand.

Re:Not easy being a computer user (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#19432105)

I was already pondering studying law on top of my IT degree. It should be the license to print money.

Sums up the US court system nicely (3, Insightful)

EvilGrin666 (457869) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431831)

A lawyer is quoted as saying that Sheehan, a high school dropout who is arguing his own case, is in for a world of hurt: 'This poor guy now faces daunting reality of having to litigate this on appeal against Gateway...By winning, he's lost.'"
If that doesn't illustrate everything that's wrong with the US court system, I don't know what does. It's a sad day when the only people who can 'win' are those who can afford it. I, for one, hope he ends up in an appeal court with a sympathetic judge who still believes in the system.

Re:Sums up the US court system nicely (1)

Thanus (615133) | more than 6 years ago | (#19432011)

The reasons that the practice of law essentially requires attorneys to not only have access to the current state of the law, in the form of either online databases such as West or LexisNexis, but to have the skills required to find applicable statutes and cases. Once the rules have been found, significant skill is needed to successfully articulate the findings in a coherent manner. Certainly these standards are relaxed in small claims courts and the judge is used to having to pry out arguments for both sides, but knowing which arguments to make about which issues is critical. Appellate judges are much less used to dealing with these issues, aside from convicted criminals, and are much less willing to do your job for you. The worst trouble Sheehan will face will undoubtly be the appellate court, if he makes it that far, but he may find an attorney willing to pick up his case pro bono (for free) because of the larger EULA issues at play. This could turn out to be a very important ruling for many people and companies.

EULA (0, Redundant)

marsall_banana (995683) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431845)

Sure nobody reads them but we all know what they say: you will not sue us and we take no responsibility for anything.

The fact he didn't read it is irrelevant. Not to mention that by clicking yes you say that you have read and agreed, meaning if you didn't read you are lying and thus don't have a leg to stand on anyway.

Re:EULA (1)

epee1221 (873140) | more than 6 years ago | (#19432085)

How about the fact that he couldn't read it (i.e. terms were never presented to him) and probably couldn't click "yes" (i.e. never agreed to them)? Relevant?

Somebody please explain (4, Insightful)

kosmosik (654958) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431861)

> the EULA, which requires that users give up their right to sue

Is it even possible in US to get in such agreement? I am Polish. ;) I don't know much about US law system but the whole idea looks awkard. In my country you can state whatever bullshit you wish in license agreement or whatever - but it is void unless it is valid with the law. So I could make a license that you own me your liver if you use my software while not drinking milk - but it would be pointless.

It is possible in US to just make a license that disallows you to sue by the other party? That is kind of retarded - even if it is possible - what it is for?

I thought that you _ALLWAYS_ have a right to sue (fight for your rights) and nobody can take it from you?

Idjits (2, Interesting)

A10Mechanic (1056868) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431881)

Gee, I wonder which costs more? Give a man a win in small claims court, or spend about a bijillion dollars to bring in the attack dogs. Heaven forbid you should set a precedent where a customer actually gets what he wants, then everyone will want satisfaction. We certainly can't have that...

giving up rights (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19431893)

Ya know ... I'm not a big fan of lawyers and stupid lawsuits ... but I'm getting a little sick of giving up all my rights every time I turn around. I've seen this "agree not to sue, and instead, go to binding arbitration with an arbiter of the company's choice" on all sorts of things lately.

The other day, the cable guy came out. He drops off my HD DVR. He hands me his handheld PC and says "sign here". The thing I'm supposed to sign says something like "I agree to all the stuff above". Of course, I can't scroll up and read anything. So, i ask what I'm signing. He tells me it's that I received the DVR. Grr. OK. So I sign. Then it prints out this huge receipt. Among other things, i've given up my right to sue them.

To make it worse, they often are worded such that you can never sue them for anything ... EVER ... not just in respect to the immediate business. Hopefully that won't stand up in court.

So what,you should NEVER sue when wronged? (1)

iamacat (583406) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431903)

Chances are, Gateway will not bother to appeal a small claim. Talking to a customer service supervisor is usually enough to be offered a discount similar in value to what he might get. Appeal would also most probably be rejected, since they are no complicated legal issues in this case. And if the case will ever get to a civil trial by jury, well juries have little sympathy for big companies with lots of money to award to the underdog.

EULA's are not a legal contract (4, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431911)

contracts require the ability to negotiate the terms and talk with the other party. EULA's do not allow this. more so ALL eula's are given to you post purchase of software/hardware, which means you've been forced into agreeing to something without seeing the details first, which is not legal under most contract law.

i've always had the opinoin that eula's are not legal, and are just used as a bully tactic. i hope this guy wins.

Re:EULA's are not a legal contract (1)

Atario (673917) | more than 6 years ago | (#19432103)

That's all true. Unfortunately, the guy seems to be arguing that the company is wrong because he couldn't read the EULA, not because he was forced to buy before seeing it. So I'm not sure if this case will help that much.

Curious (1)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431947)

I'm curious if anyone has ever recieved their money back because they refused to agree to the EULA? Or is it a matter of choice after laying down $200 to $7,000, Maya and XSI are $7,000 and I use both, to not use the software and eat the purchase price when you don't agree to the conditions? If you have to use a certain software what choice do you have? Given most agreements are boilerplates and vary little is the choice to use a computer or not? The government has dropped the ball on the whole issue. There is zero oversight so the companies can do whatever they want.

best hope is a pyrrhic victory? (5, Interesting)

semiotec (948062) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431951)

"This poor guy now faces daunting reality of having to litigate this on appeal against Gateway," Palefsky said. "By winning, he's lost."

So the take home lesson is that the little guys should never attempt to sue big companies? that even if they have a chance of winning, the big guns will put them "in a world of hurt"? this is how the legal system is supposed work?

Credibility (2, Informative)

EvilGrin5000 (951851) | more than 6 years ago | (#19431953)

From the article:

"On Monday, Attorney William Portello, a partner in a Concord law firm, and Sheehan, a high-school dropout who has argued his own case, faced off in a Cameron Park courtroom."

It saddens me that courts can be manipulated more by credibility rather than facts. I hope that the judge can look past the 'high-school dropout' and listen to the claims. I'm not sure why Hudson Sangree (Bee Staff Writer of this article) deemed necessary to introduce a David vs. Goliath scenario but I hope it won't influence the decision.

Also, why is there a quote from some unknown source given?

From the article:
"This poor guy now faces daunting reality of having to litigate this on appeal against Gateway," Palefsky said. "By winning, he's lost."

After reading the article, the writer shows many discrepancies. I've actually felt the need to dismiss the article and read up on this story from a different source.

Does anyone else get the impression that the way this article was written, the writer was laughing at Sheehan the whole time?

"World of Hurt" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19432025)

Let's set up a tip jar for the guy. Don't know what this is all about, but anything to stick it to that lawyer dude sounds good to me.

Gateway violated the contract (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19432067)

You can't have a one sided contract. Each party to a contract must receive something of value. The implication behind buying a computer and software is that they will work. The judge should ask what things of value were received by each party. The purchaser should have received, at a minimum, a working computer with working software. It sounds like that didn't happen. Gateway didn't live up to their obligtions. Therefore the contract is void. The EULA can't be enforced if Gateway didn't honor the contract.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...