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iPhone 4 Buyers Open Fire With Barrage of Antenna Lawsuits

By Erika Morphy MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Jul 1, 2010 12:18 PM PT

Apple and AT&T are facing several lawsuits over the widely reported reception problems found in the iPhone 4. The device's new antenna design -- which wraps around the phone in the form of a metal band -- apparently causes reception to drop or even cut off completely if it is held in certain way without being covered by a protective case, such as the so-called Bumper that Apple sells for US$30.

iPhone 4 Buyers Open Fire With Barrage of Antenna Lawsuits

A suit has been filed with the U.S. District Court of Maryland, with plaintiffs Kevin McCraffrey and Linda Winn listed. There are reportedly several more unnamed plaintiffs as well.

Another suit has been filed in San Francisco, which is apparently seeking class action status. More suits -- or at least disgruntled users signing onto the existing ones -- can be expected: Sacramento, Calif.-based Kershaw Cutter & Ratinoff is running an ad seeking unhappy customers.

The suits allege that Apple knowingly sold a defective product.

Legal Minds

Certainly Apple has weathered its fair share of lawsuits over the years, emerging from these skirmishes relatively unscathed. Assuming that the complaints are accurate and in fact reflect a widespread defect in the product's design, will this legal challenge, or challenges, be different for Apple?

The problems, after all, affect how the phone makes calls -- its fundamental reason for being.

However, a closer look suggests Apple has some legal leeway in this matter, although the court of public opinion may hold different viewpoints.

"The phone is still operational and can still be used with relatively minor adjustments," Andrew Stoltmann, a securities attorney at the Stoltmann Law Offices, told MacNewsWorld. "That is important."

More to the point, he said Congress has tightened the pleading standards requiring more specificity with class-action complaints. "This makes it more difficult to get over the pleading hump."

Of course, it may be that Apple decides to settle rather than engage in a protracted battle, despite the potential injustice if the accusations are baseless or weak, Ray Van Dyke, a technology lawyer in Washington, D.C., told MacNewsWorld.

"In this case, the legitimacy of the class-action suit will be ascertained over time," he said. "As class-action attorneys normally work on contingency, the case will be geared for settlement, as with most suits of this nature."

Industry Issue

Legal issues aside, it is easy to understand consumers' ire over the matter, Jon Mitchell Jackson, an attorney with Jackson & Wilson, told MacNewsWorld.

"Technology companies routinely put out products that have known bugs or defects," he said. "When you really think about it, what other companies are 'allowed' to do this in our society? Are automobile manufactures allowed to sell cars with defective tires? Of course not! When you buy a brand-new computer, should it turn on when you press the power button? Yes. When you purchase an expensive cellphone and commit to a long-term calling plan, should the phone work when you need it to? Of course it should."

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