Sterling, Inc. is a manufacturer of state-of-the-art computers. For the past ten years, Sterling has acquired all of its microchips from NoBugs Corporation, the only producer of chips meeting Sterling’s high specifications. The relationship has been mutually profitable. Sterling could not have built its reputation as an industry leader without NoBugs’s reliable and consistently high-quality products; Sterling’s business has enabled NoBugs to grow rapidly while providing its investors with an attractive rate of return.
Some months ago, several of Sterling’s computers exploded shortly after installation. Upon investigation, Sterling discovered that tiny imperfections in NoBugs’s microchips had aggravated a dormant design defect in the computers, causing the explosions. Analysis of the chips indicated that they were indeed below specifications and that the imperfections were caused by a slight miscalibration of NoBugs’s encoding equipment. NoBugs recalibrated the equipment and promptly resumed production of perfect chips.
Sterling’s losses from the explosions – lost profits, out-of-pocket costs associated with compensating customers for the explosions, and injury to business reputation – are estimated to exceed $20 million. Sterling and NoBugs disagree on the amount of the loss for which NoBugs should be responsible. Sterling has a strong legal case for breach of contract against NoBugs. Sterling’s CEO is considering a lawsuit. She asks you to prepare a report discussing litigation strategy and the advantages and disadvantages of litigation; and discussing pretrial planning should the company opt for litigation.