Judge Kills Apple Warranty Class Action

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — A federal judge Wednesday rejected last-ditch efforts to save a putative class action accusing Apple of lying to consumers about its iPhone warranties, and using refurbished rather than new parts to fix them.

Former lead plaintiff Patricia Adkins sued Apple in November 2013, claiming it falsely represented that its AppleCare warranty plans guaranteed new parts and products for repairs and replacements.

Adkins was replaced in January 2015 by lead plaintiff Fabrienne English, who says Apple gave her two replacement phones that immediately froze and shut down without warning, though none of the packaging indicated the devices were anything but new.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick III denied English’s motion for class certification in January 2016, finding problems with her theories of liability and adequacy of counsel.

During a December hearing on a motion for summary judgment, English’s attorney Renee Kennedy asked Orrick to open up her client’s iPhone to verify whether Apple records correctly indicate whether its replacement phones were new and not refurbished.

Orrick rejected the request, saying inspecting the phone could not reliably prove whether it was new when English received it four years ago.

Kennedy said an expert could inspect the phone’s inner components for fingerprints, but Orrick said no evidence was offered to show that a refurbished phone’s interior parts would contain fingerprints.

Orrick added that declarations that English, her family members and third parties never opened the phone “hardly sufficient to establish a reliable chain of custody” or prove the phone had not been tampered with.

In a sealed motion filed on Jan. 5, Kennedy asked Orrick to recuse himself, claiming U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte improperly shared “allegations against” her and/or her client from a confidential settlement conference letter with the judge.

Orrick refused that request also on Wednesday, calling recusal “unnecessary and inappropriate” and denying allegations of “taint or judicial bias.”

“Despite plaintiff’s unfounded contentions to the contrary, Magistrate Judge Laporte did not share with me, verbally or in writing, any disparaging remarks about plaintiff or her counsel, or any information regarding the settlement negotiations at all,” Orrick wrote.

Orrick found that English failed to present evidence upon which she relied, or any verbal or oral misrepresentations from Apple on the newness of replacements or the number of replacements she was entitled to receive.

He granted Apple’s motion for summary judgment and denied English’s request for further discovery, ending the case.

Neither attorney Kennedy, of Friendswood, Texas, nor Apple’s press team returned phone calls seeking comment Thursday.