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IMac Dimness Defect Claims Fail to Impress

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Apple users must amend their claims that 27-inch iMac computers have a defect that causes screens to dim, a federal judge ruled.

Corbin Rasmussen claims that he bought a 27-inch iMac in 2011 in part because Apple touted its superior display and dependability in advertising and on its website.

Despite these claims, however, Apple had allegedly known since at least 2010 of a latent defect that causes the screen on the computers to darken, which is when the company allegedly began to receive what would amount to hundreds of thousands of complaints that would lead one technology news website to designate the machines "iLemons."

When half of the screen on Rasmussen's iMac went dim after approximately 18 months, Apple told him that any repair would cost more than $500 because his iMac was out of warranty, according to the 2013 complaint.

Rasmussen claims that the defect happens both within and outside of the warranty period, and that Apple misrepresented the quality, build and display of the computers.

He hopes to represent owners of 27-inch iMacs with a LG-LED-backlit display bought before Nov. 30, 2012.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen found Friday, however, Rasmussen does not have a case under California's Consumer Legal Remedies Act since the warranty had already run out on his computer before the defect occurred.

CLRA claims cannot stand outside the warranty period because unless a plaintiff alleges that an asserted defect poses a safety risk, according to the ruling.

"Merely arguing that the defect created the risk that the plaintiff would have to pay for the repair of the product is not sufficient," the judge wrote.

Chen also cited precedent in rejecting Rasmussen's argument that Apple had a duty to disclose the defect.

The judge agreed that the safety-concern requirement does not apply when the defect occurs during the warranty, but that finding does not help Rasmussen.

"While a defect need not be safety related to support a CLRA claim where the defect manifests within the warranty period, Plaintiff does not have standing to assert such a claim here," Chen wrote.

Rasmussen also cannot sustain the CLRA claim by alleging that the defect is a material fact "contrary" to Apple's representations that the iMac display is "designed for a long productive life."

Apple argued that any of its display claims constitute "mere puffery" on which no reasonable consumer would rely, and thus are not actionable under the CLRA.

Chen agreed, finding that "many statements do not relate to the longevity of the screen's performance, only to the general quality of its display."

"As to those that do, statements that the Mac is designed to 'last' or have a 'long productive life' are equivalent to representations that a product was 'built to last' that courts have found to be non-actionable," he continued.

Chen added: "Plaintiff has simply not alleged that Apple made any misrepresentations about specific or absolute characteristics of the longevity of the 27-inch iMac that would constitute an actionable statement."

The same reasoning led Chen to toss the unfair competition claim.

Apple also persuaded the judge to strike the class definition as too broad since it sought to include iMac buyers who did not experience any defects.

Rasmussen has 30 days from the order to file an amended complaint.

He is represented by Eric Gibbs from Girard Gibbs LLP in San Francisco.

Matthew Powers of O'Melveny & Myers LLP in San Francisco represents Apple.

Neither side replied to a request for comment.

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