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Best Buy sued over destroyed hard drive

FRIDAY, JULY 14, 2006

A Spokane author is seeking more than $75,000 in damages from Best Buy Co., Inc., alleging the company sent his laptop to a repair facility that destroyed a hard drive containing 1,500 pages of manuscripts he had written.

LaErtes Muldrow, 53, said in an interview the experience has left him depressed and unable to write. The losses include manuscripts of two works already published, plus 1,500 pages of four novels he was writing and hadn’t made copies of, he said.

The suit was filed in state court then reassigned to U.S. District Court for Eastern Washington.

Best Buy, based in Richfield, Minn., says it did nothing wrong.

“While we cannot comment on the specifics of the litigation, we believe this case is without merit and intend to defend ourselves vigorously,” said Best Buy spokeswoman Kelly Groehler. She declined further comment on the lawsuit.

An Army vet who moved to Spokane more than a year ago, Muldrow said he had failed to create backed-up versions of his work, plus roughly 30 outlines of stories he intended to write.

“Well, I do a backup now,” he said.

His Spokane attorney, Kyle Nolte, admits Muldrow signed a disclaimer when he left his laptop computer with store technicians that waived any liability on Best Buy’s part if data was damaged or destroyed.

But Muldrow had a verbal agreement with Best Buy’s repair technicians that makes them liable for damages, Nolte claimed.

In July 2005, Muldrow took his Sony laptop to the Best Buy store in North Spokane because the machine no longer booted up. The company agreed to honor a three-year service warranty he had bought.

Spokane’s Best Buy “Geek Squad” service group was unable to fix the problem and told Muldrow they would send the computer to a repair contractor in Southern California, Muldrow said. The Geek Squad is Best Buy’s onsite service subsidiary.

Muldrow said he only agreed to that arrangement because Best Buy said the California firm would remove the nonworking hard drive, send it back to him unrepaired, then replace it with a new drive and ship back the laptop.

A North Division store Best Buy manager told Muldrow those steps would be taken, said Muldrow.

“I wanted to pay for a specialist to recover or copy the data (on the old drive). It would be expensive, but what was there was very important to me,” Muldrow said.

About a week after sending the unit to the repair site, the Best Buy manager called Muldrow to tell him the California firm’s technicians missed the instructions to save the hard drive, the suit claims.

The books Muldrow has published to date are a young-adult novel, “Evolve,” and a young-adult fantasy novel, “Manawydan.” Both were self-published by Muldrow with limited sales, he said.

Nolte said Muldrow deserves not just an apology from Best Buy but financial damages, which in part come from thousands of dollars spent by Muldrow to send his four novels to companies whose editors work on unpublished manuscripts.

He was ready to work on the final versions on those books when his computer crashed, Muldrow said.


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