A federal jury in Pittsburgh has levied a $203,000 judgment against Acuity Systems Inc., a now-defunct Reston computer company that was accused of selling a doctor a computer that didn't work.
The jury ruled in favor of Lawrence L. Gipson, a Pittsburgh ophthalmologist, who leased an office computer system and software from Acuity and its parent firm, Simmonds Precision Products Inc., based in Tarrytown, N.Y.
Gipson sued Acuity and Simmonds in 1982 after he was sued for for allegedly defaulting on the lease for the computer.
Gipson alleged he was duped into leasing unsuitable and shoddy products marketed by Acuity and Simmonds and stopped paying on the lease because of the alleged deception.
Attorneys said Simmonds, as the parent of Acuity, now will be liable for payment of damages. Attorneys for Simmonds were unavailable for comment.
The Pittsburgh jury ruled that Acuity knowingly marketed merchandise that was untested and was unsuitable to the doctor's uses. It awarded Gipson $150,000 in punitive and $53,000 in compensatory damages.
"There was no damage done to Dr. Gipson's patients, but he lost a lot of business" said his attorney, Alan Eaton of Washington. Eaton said the decision not only should put computer companies on notice that they are responsible for being sure their products work but also should give computer users legal protection from faulty systems.