N.D. Cal. Court Dismisses MacBook Screen Defect Class Action

On Monday, Judge Edward J. Davila dismissed a consumer complaint relating to screen defects in certain 13” and 15” Apple MacBook Pro laptops. The court permitted the computer purchasers to replead some, but not all of their claims after having already had two bites at the apple.

As noted in previous coverage, the case was filed in August 2020 when aggrieved purchasers argued that Apple “committed fraud through affirmative representations in its 2016 promotional campaign for MacBook Pros, specifically Defendant’s statements regarding the ‘brightness’ of certain MacBook Pro displays.” 

According to the plaintiffs, the computers did not merely fail to live up to these assertions, but actually experienced screen malfunction due to allegedly defective flexible ribbon cables connecting the display to the display controller board. The opinion mentioned that Apple instituted a program to fix or replace flawed 13” models, but nevertheless, the plaintiffs asserted various fraud and warranty-based claims under state and federal law.

Apple initially moved to dismiss in December 2020, to which the plaintiffs responded with an amended complaint. In its second motion, Apple contended that the plaintiffs’ fraud-based claims failed for inability to meet the heightened pleading standard requiring particularity. The court agreed, and based on a case, also presided over by Judge Davila considering nearly identical statements, dismissed the affirmative statement-related claims with prejudice.

In order for the plaintiffs’ fraud by omission claims to succeed, they had to allege that the defects presented a safety hazard or that they fell within the one-year warranty period in order to meet the causes of action’s “materiality requirement.” Judge Davila concluded they did neither, thus causing their omissions-based claims, including their claim for fraudulent concealment to fail.

Relatedly, the plaintiffs’ express warranty claims fell short because there was no showing that the defects occurred within the one-year warranty period. Additionally, the court upheld Apple’s disclaimer as “conspicuous,” finding it sufficient to effectively disclaim or limit all implied warranties. These two conclusions led the court to dispose of the plaintiffs’ state law warranty and Song-Beverly Act claims.

With respect to the fraud claims based on omission, Judge Davila granted the plaintiffs leave to amend to plead a safety hazard arising out of the alleged defects. Similarly, and “[b]ecause Plaintiffs may be able to allege a breach of warranty claim,” he also permitted them leave to amend their Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act claim.

The plaintiff is represented by Marlin & Saltzman LLP and Apple by Weil, Gotshal & Manges.