MacBook User Class Certified in “Defective” Butterfly Keyboard Suit

Judge Edward J. Davila of the Northern District of California issued an order on March 8, which was redacted last week, certifying the class of MacBook laptop purchasers with the allegedly defective butterfly keyboards.

The judge certified the class, agreeing that the purchasers of 2015-2017 MacBook, 2016-2019 MacBook Pro except for the 16-inch MacBook Pro released in November 2019, or 2018-2019 MacBook Air residing in California, New York, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan, or Washington state now qualify for the class. The judge also certified subclasses of purchasers in these seven states. The court appointed the plaintiffs to represent the class and seven subclasses. Additionally, Girard Sharp LLP and Chimicles Schwartz Kriner & Donaldson-Smith LLP are appointed as co-lead class counsel.

Several MacBook owners filed the suit against Apple in 2018, claiming that the company knew that the butterfly-style switches for keyboards were defective. The butterfly keyboards are composed of four fragile pieces that require less pressure to go down; these keyboards are thinner, however, if one of the keys broke essentially the whole keyboard had to be replaced. The plaintiffs claimed that Apple knew and hid that the butterfly keyboards were easily susceptible to issues and, as a result, often failed. Specifically, the consumers complained that their keyboards often had sticky or unresponsive keys, among other things. Apple was accused of violating several state consumer protection laws. In December 2019, Apple moved to dismiss the suit, however, Judge Davila rejected this motion finding that Apple had not provided “an effective fix.”

According to the order, Apple contended that the plaintiffs “cannot show that all of the Class Laptops suffer from a common defect because the majority of the Class members never experienced any issues with their butterfly keyboards. Apple points to their internal figures for repair rates … as evidence that only a small percentage of consumers who bought a class laptop ever had any issues with their keyboards.”

Judge Davila countered that “proof of the manifestation of a defect is not a prerequisite to class certification.” Apple also argued against class certification, claiming that one consolidated suit should not cover several tweaks and design differences to the butterfly keyboards. However, the judge found that the plaintiffs sufficiently argued that all of the butterfly keyboards may suffer from the same essential problem because of the thinner design and small space between the keys, noting that “(n)one of the design differences that Apple points to changed the tight spaces between the keys, nor the low-travel aspect of the design.” Judge Davila also concluded that the plaintiffs satisfied the requirements of numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy of representation, to grant them class certification.

Apple is represented by Morrison & Foerster LLP. The plaintiffs must confer and submit a proposed plan of notice within 21 days of the order.