Court rejects faulty iPhone power button suit

By , Aug 30, 2013

A California U.S. District judge derailed a potential class-action lawsuit against Apple and AT&T earlier this week, rejecting a complaint that the two companies conspired against fixing a defect in the popular iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S handsets. Two California consumers had alleged a “wiggly” power button presented a safety hazard which both the tech giant and the carrier kept hidden in order to sell more of the handsets.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Gary Feess dismissed the argument for a racketeering charge, ruling the safety hazards were “speculative” and occurred beyond the product’s warranty period. The court’s rejection could influence a second similar federal lawsuit still making its way through the legal system…

In his ruling, Feess stated Apple was not obligated to reveal product flaws which happened after the iPhone’s one-year warranty expired. Additionally, the judge called “speculative” the claims made by Ross Missaghi and Charles Thompson.

The two alleged a faulty design of the power button on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S posed a safety hazard.

GigaOM has a quote from the judge’s ruling:

Certainly being stranded in a broken down car, where there may not even be cell service, is as speculative a safety concern as being stranded with a broken phone.

From the dismissal:

Thus, every time plaintiffs or another owner of a defective iPhone 4 or iPhone 4s brings the device on an airplane, unless the individual has thought ahead and gone through the inconvenience and time required to allow the battery to drain, the defect causes potential interference with ‘communications, navigation, flight control, and electronic equipment’ in the airplane.

The defect thus presents a safety hazard not only to the owner, but to everyone else on the airplane, as well as potentially people on the ground.

The lawsuit had alleged the claim fell under the RICO statue, since Apple and AT&T supposedly conspired to hide the defect in order to sell more of the phones.

Fees also dismissed the claim that the alleged “wiggly” power button could possibly harm airline travelers. Although these original claims were dismissed, the plaintiffs have until September 13 to file a modified pleading of liability.

In May, a second case was filed arguing that “the flex cable mechanism attached to the power button would become inoperable after extended use, usually after Apple’s one-year warranty had expired,” writes AppleInsider.

That case, which also attempts to launch a class-action lawsuit against Apple’s deep pockets, is reportedly mired in court paperwork.

Image top of post via iFixit.

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  • Adam Bowman

    Wiggly claims get dismissed.

  • Richard Thompson

    That’s what airplane mode is for.

    • Rickm_jr

      You don’t ride the plane often huh? Airplane mode is simply so your device won’t go looking for cell towers in the sky. The device must be OFF during take off and landing

      • Richard Thompson

        Actually I used to ride in planes quite a bit. And the crew never had a problem with putting our devices in airplane mode before. So if there were a problem with that it’s on them for not enforcing the rules. And no I never his the fact that I was still using my device.

  • Jimothy

    My iPhone 5 had the problem of not locking, due to an issue with the power button. Airplane mode is what should be used when taking off in a plane, so yes. That is what it’s for. However, Apple should fix the Lock Button issue. It’s happened to 3 of the people I know who bought the iPhone 5 in the first few months. After that, though, I haven’t heard of issues with it.

    • Brandon Miranda

      it happened to someone i know aswell

    • patrick

      Had the same problem, bought the iphone 5 right after it came out, went back to Apple and they gave me a new one, havent had the problem since then

    • Rickm_jr

      I just had the lock button issue a week ago. Went to an Apple store and they replaced it in under 2 minutes.

    • XboxOne

      Happened to me like a month ago. I lost my jailbreak because of it. Got a replacement iPhone 5 with iOS 6.1.4 on it.

      • Jimothy

        Me too! Exactly what happened. I was like “…come on.”

  • Damian W

    I had two iPhone 4′s with completely broken power buttons.

    • Stefano

      Between myself, brother mother and fiancé, we had seven iPhone 4′s replaced within one years original warranty

  • JT

    The whole design of the power buttons are faulty. Cant count how many flex cabels ive replaced.

    • Damian W

      add to it the even worse home button, which at some point is impossible to fix.

      • Jimothy

        A simple fix that worked for me was to plug in the charger, the bend it slightly forward. It fixes my home button issue every time.

  • Imahottguy

    These comments of having to get replacements seem odd to me, I have owned every version of the iphone excluding the 4 and 5 (currently on a 4S) and have never had any issues with home buttons (which is supposedly more common) or power buttons. Do people not take care of their phones or something? I certainly don’t carry mine on a pillow in a bubble, it has a bumper case and front/back screen protectors, but I have yet to have any hardware issues on my 4S which is about a year and a half old. I guess I don’t really use the power button that much though..

    • Jimothy

      As everyone should very well know, every manufacturing process has flaws. Just because you didn’t get a “flawed iPhone” doesn’t mean others won’t. I’m not saying you’re wrong; several are broken due to mishandling of the devices. But some come flawed. I hadn’t even used my iPhone 5 before the power button started messing up. I’m not attacking you. I’m just pointing that every manufacturing process has flaws.

      • Imahottguy

        True, I would imagine that out of the millions of iPhones produced there would have to be a certain percentage of flawed models that make it past the QC checks (likely still ran by humans and also likely spot checking one or two of a batch (I am assuming)). I should have been more concise, I meant to say that it seemed like an odd case to say that after a year this button doesn’t work anymore could get even close to class action status. Not that it is unheard of to ever have received a broken device from the manufacturer (quite frustrating I’m sure!)

  • Ted Forbes

    The power button problem is a common problem with the 4 and 4s and can be repaired by replacing the power button flex cable. If you are under warranty this is no problem but if the warranty is expired well then…

    But this and other problems that can be fixed is not as bad as those that can not be fixed especially after the warranty is expired. Indeed the 4 and 4s is known for unrepairable technical problems and the only solution then is to throw it away and purchasing a new phone. Now isn’t that a nuisance?

  • Alexander Reimann

    My iPhone5 power button only works when I push the very left corner of it… I don’t know how much longer that’ll work…

    • Jimothy

      My girlfriend’s only worked for 3 months after it started, just to give some timeframe.(even though yours might last longer.)

  • Razick Rilshad

    I have same problem with my iphone 5 lock button is not working

  • Imahottguy

    Little late to the party on this: the plane was never in danger; if they would have contacted CS, they would have been told that by using the “Assistive Touch” functionality under Settings > General > Accessibility, they could mimic the power button with an on screen button (called “Lock Screen”. This would allow them to lock the screen, and if held down give the normal “Slide to Power Off” screen as well.

    • Jimothy

      Only downside to doing that with a broken power button is the fact that you wouldn’t be able to turn it back on without a power source. (Do they have outlets and such on planes? I’ve never flown.)

      • Imahottguy

        Downside yes, but not a safety issue in the sense the plaintiffs were complaining about. The only safety issue with not being able to power on your phone in a plane would be crash or terrorist situation (I suppose). But then again one could argue that the odds of no one else having a phone or being able to turn on their phone would be so slim.