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Warranty action over Apple Watch defect survives dismissal bid

A group of Apple Watch owners adequately showed the tech giant must have known about safety issues with some Apple Watch products at the time of sale.

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) — Claims that two series of Apple Watches have a defect that could harm owners will advance, though the plaintiffs have some work to see their class action survive. 

Plaintiffs from several different states filed a California class action in December 2021 on behalf of all Apple Watch customers, claiming that several First Generation and SE series watches contain “an undisclosed and unreasonably dangerous safety hazard.” 

They claim that sudden swelling of the watch batteries can cause the screen to detach, shatter, or crack, “exposing its razor-sharp edges and leading to operational failure of the watch and/or personal injuries.” They say Apple did not give sufficient space within the watch to prevent the screen issue and watches have injured class members, creating a “substantial and material risk of serious injury, including lacerations, cuts, abrasions, and other injuries.”

Claims include violations of California's unfair competition, consumer and warranty laws, federal warranty law and fraud by omission under various state laws.

In a 12-page order issued Friday, U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam said he would grant parts of Apple’s motion to dismiss — but declined to toss the entire case.

Apple had argued the non-California plaintiffs may not pursue claims under California law, that the claims for equitable relief fail because plaintiffs have an adequate remedy at law and that plaintiffs have not adequately shown pre-sale knowledge of the defect. 

But Gilliam said whether non-California plaintiffs may bring claims under California law should be addressed later. declining to conduct a choice of law analysis and finding Apple “failed to meet its burden on this motion to show that the non-resident plaintiffs cannot pursue claims under California law.”

Responding to Apple's argument the plaintiffs have equitable remedies for their claims, Gilliam agreed and dismissed without prejudice the plaintiffs’ claims to the extent they seek equitable relief. 

He also dismissed two plaintiffs’ common law claims as time-barred with leave to add more claims, since they did not provide enough information to invoke the delayed discovery rule “to show (1) the time and manner of discovery and (2) the inability to have made earlier discovery despite reasonable diligence.” 

But Gilliam tossed without leave to amend the breach of implied warranty claim because Apple’s limited warranty “effectively disclaimed the implied warranty of merchantability as a matter of law.” He also threw out the Song-Beverly Act claim — that a latent defect existed at the time of sale and the plaintiffs were not required to discover and report the defect within one year — but gave them another chance to show why their claims are timely.

As for the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act claim, Gilliam noted there must be at least 100 named plaintiffs for federal court jurisdiction. Since the case only has 12 named plaintiffs, Gilliam dismissed the claim with leave to amend. 

However, he said the plaintiffs raised a plausible showing that Apple had pre-sale knowledge of watch defects, and found they adequately used “multiple specific sources of knowledge.” He also found they adequately claimed a safety hazard giving rise to duty to disclose, showing there was insufficient space in watch casings. 

“The causal connection between the defect and the risk of personal injury is obvious and far from speculative, given the allegations that plaintiffs and class members were actually injured,” Gilliam said. 

The plaintiffs have 28 days to file an amended complaint, and the next hearing will take place April 4. 

Attorneys for Apple and the plaintiffs did not respond to requests for comment before deadline. 

Categories:Consumers, Technology

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