Glass Breaks, Judge Says in Nixing Apple Lawsuit

     SAN JOSE, Calif. (CN) – A federal judge dismissed a class action accusing Apple of overstating the durability of the iPhone 4’s glass casing, saying “it is a well-known fact of life that glass can break under impact.”
     Lead plaintiff Betsalel Williamson said he bought an iPhone 4 for about $320 in 2010 based on Apple marketing that led him to believe the phone was “ultradurable.”
     When Apple presented the iPhone 4 at a conference in June 2010, late CEO Steve Jobs said the company used glass panels on the front and back of the phone “for optical quality and scratch resistance,” according to the federal class action.
     At the same conference, another Apple executive allegedly referred to the glass casing as “comparable in strength to sapphire crystal” and 30 times harder than plastic.
     “Apple made a point of demonstrating this strength by bending the glass used for the iPhone 4 to show that it can withstand bending of up to 30 degrees without breaking or cracking,” according to the lawsuit.
     Williamson said Apple touted the aluminosilicate glass as “the same type of glass used in the windshields of helicopters and high-speed trains,” and “20 times stiffer and 30 times harder than plastic … ultradurable and more scratch resistant than ever.”
     But he said the glass back of his phone cracked when it fell from the arm of a chair just two days after purchase. He said Apple charged him $29 for a replacement panel.
     He sued on behalf of buyers who claimed they would not have bought the phone had they known it was “susceptible to cracking due to normal and reasonable use … and was more susceptible to breaking than earlier generation iPhones.”
     But U.S. District Edward Davila dismissed the lawsuit, finding that most of the marketing claims were mere “puffery,” and that a reasonable consumer would not be misled into believing that the glass casing was “indestructible or drop-proof.”
     “[I]t is a well-known fact of life that glass can break under impact, even glass that has been reinforced,” he wrote in his 15-page ruling. “The shattered window of a storefront, the cracked windshield of a car, and the chipped smartphone screen are routine encounters of modern existence. It seems a suspension of logic to say that the marketing campaign described in the [complaint], which notably has nothing to do with phone-dropping, somehow erases these images from the collective experience such that the reasonable consumer could expect that glass could not break if dropped.”
     He also dismissed a claim for breach of warranty, saying normal usage does not include dropping the phone.
     “Plaintiff contends that the iPhone 4 is not fit for its ordinary purpose because the glass housing is not ultradurable,” Davila wrote. “That allegation, however, has nothing to do with the iPhone 4’s intended use as a smartphone, which the court safely presumes includes functions like making and receiving phone calls, sending and receiving text messages, or allowing for the use of mobile applications.”
     Davila said it was “certainly a stretch to conclude that one ‘ordinary purpose’ of the iPhone 4, or any smartphone for that matter, is to drop it on the ground.”
     He dismissed all claims, but gave Williamson room to amend all but the unjust enrichment claim.

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