SAN FRANCISCO — McCuneWright, LLP, Larson O’Brien, LLP, Simmons Hanly Conroy and Greg Coleman Law are seasoned litigation firms now taking on perhaps the top Silicon Valley company in the world.
The four legal firms filed an amended class-action lawsuit on Oct. 7 against Apple Inc. for alleged defects in the company’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones. The suit claims a “touch-disease” from a design flaw in the motherboard results in a gray bar across the top of the touchscreens that decreases the devices’ functionality.
Apple uses a global supply chain, which means the iPhone6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones are assembled in China, but designed in the U.S.
In the 51-page amended complaint, plaintiffs Thomas Davidson, Todd Cleary, Adam Benelhachemi, Michael Pajaro, John Borzymowski, Brooke Corbett, Taylor Brown, Justin Bauer, Heirloom Estate Services, Inc., Kathleen Baker, Matt Muilenburg and William Bon allege a “material manufacturing defect that ultimately causes iPhone touchscreens to become unresponsive and fail for their essential purpose as smartphones."
The plaintiffs allege that Apple has long been aware of the defective iPhones. "Yet, notwithstanding its longstanding knowledge of this manufacturing defect, Apple routinely has refused to repair the iPhones without charge when the defect manifests," the suit states.
That in turn, has allegedly harmed the plaintiffs. “As a result of Apple’s unfair, deceptive and/or fraudulent business practices, owners of the iPhones, including Plaintiffs, have suffered an ascertainable loss of money and/or property and/or value," the suit states. "The unfair and deceptive trade practices committed by Apple were conducted in a manner giving rise to substantial aggravating circumstances.”
The plaintiffs and other class members totaling 9,539 individuals would have not have purchased the Apple iPhone 6 smartphone if they knew of the alleged touchscreen defect, according to the complaint.
Apple began to sell the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones nearly two years ago.
“This seems to be Apple’s way of doing business,” Jeff Kagan, a wireless analyst and consultant, told the Northern California Record. “While this is not unusual, if Apple would admit to the problem and fix it, there would be no problem.”
That is not what is occurring, though.
“There is significant precedent in all different types of products for a class action against a manufacturer who produces products that fail long before their useful life when used in a normal and expected way,” Richard D. McCune told the Northern California Record.
Coleman Law states that it has “40 years of combined legal experience, having tried hundreds of jury trials and countless bench trials and have recovered over $250 million in compensation for our clients,” and works on a contingency basis.
“There is nothing novel or groundbreaking about the legal theories in this case, except for the number of consumers affected, and the name and brand of the defendant,” Gary Coleman told the Northern California Record.
Meanwhile, the number of class members increased 40 percent from Sept. 22 to the amended filing on Oct. 7. Cupertino-based Apple declined a request for comment from the Record.
The sales and revenue for iPhones have declined for the most recent year-over comparison. Apple sold 40.4 million iPhones in third-quarter 2016, with revenue of $24 billion versus sales of 47.5 million units for the third-quarter 2015, and revenue of $31.4 billion.
“We are seeking return of cost of repair and value of the phone before it malfunctioned,” McCune said. “We have not quantified those numbers yet, and will need discovery and expert testimony for damage numbers.”
McCuneWright is involved in a number of other class-action lawsuits.
The firm is suing General Motors on behalf of consumers who bought cars from the automaker, alleging it falsified the actual fuel economy of the vehicles (2016 Chevrolet Traverses, 2016 Buick Enclaves and 2016 GMC Acadias), penalizing buyers with higher gas and sticker prices. McCuneWright filed this complaint in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
In the U.S. District Court for Northern California, McCuneWright filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of people who paid for blood testing using the Theranos Edison device in 2014 and 2015. Federal prosecutors are now investigating Theranos, a Silicon Valley startup that closed its clinical labs and Theranos Wellness Centers on Oct. 5.
Green Dot Corp., which issues MoneyCard prepaid debit cards, also is facing a McCuneWright class-action lawsuit on behalf of individuals unable to tap into their account and funds. Green Dot Corp. issues MoneyCard prepaid debit cards, which allegedly did not function as promised.