A Dell study found its line of OptiPlex desktop computers in that period included capacitors on the motherboards that were prone to pop open and leak fluid, causing computers to fail up to 97 percent of the time within three years, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
A recall, however, was never issued, even when Dell employees were aware there was a problem with the capacitors made by an Asian parts supplier, Nichicon, which also sold faulty parts to Apple and Hewlett-Packard.
Dell, at the time, was flourishing as the computer company known for keeping costs down and supply lines taut. But court papers say it was also hiding the problems with the machines, some of which were sold to the law firm defending it in court, Alston & Bird.
"The funny thing was that every one of (the computers) went bad at the same time. It's unheard-of, but Dell didn't seem to recognize this as a problem at the time," said Greg Barry, president of PointSolve, a Philadelphia company that bought dozens of problem-prone computers.
Dell spokesman Jess Blackburn said the company would not comment on pending litigation. A trial set for federal court in North Carolina on Dell's quality problems has yet to begin.