No, no, let's hear this out, says judge waving away Apple's attempt to kill MacBook Pro Flexgate lawsuit

Surely this back light problem would have come up in testing, court mulls

A US court has rejected Apple's request to throw out a potential class-action lawsuit accusing the iGiant of knowingly selling MacBook Pro laptops with defective display cables.

In an order [PDF] signed last week in San Jose, California, federal district judge Edward Davila essentially said he believed the case, brought by Mahan Taleshpour and others, has legs. The claim is that Apple broke consumer-protection laws by deliberately concealing a design defect that caused the lower portion of screens on its 2016-era MacBook Pro devices to have alternating light and dark patches.

A photo in the complaint, which dates back to 2018, shows an ugly on-screen effect allegedly caused by an internal cable being too short. This cable thus rubs against a circuit board and wears away over time as the computer's lid is opened and closed, it is said. We're told this results in the backlight failing, leading to inconsistent brightness across the screen, which all makes it rather difficult to use.

We're also told this happens after the notebook is beyond its warranty period, forcing the owner to shell out for replacement parts.


Not a good look ... A photo of a knackered MacBook Pro laptop screen from the lawsuit. Click to enlarge

Following a flood of complaints in this Flexgate saga, Apple in mid-2018 adjusted its 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pro models to use longer display cables. A year later, it introduced the MacBook Pro Display Backlight Service Program to fix up 13-inch MacBook Pro laptops that suffered the aforementioned stage-lighting-like effect. The iGiant also agreed to refund owners of 13-inch 2016-era MacBook Pros who had forked out for costly repairs before the program was launched.

The plaintiffs in this lawsuit own 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops made in or after 2016, we note, and aren't happy that their gear failed just like the 13-inch models.

“The court finds that plaintiffs have standing and have adequately stated their deceptive trade practice claims and fraudulent concealment claim to the extent those claims are based on alleged omissions,” Judge Davila wrote in his judgment dismissing Apple's motion to dismiss the complaint.

... the allegations of pre-release testing in combination with the allegations of substantial customer complaints are sufficient to show that Apple had exclusive knowledge of the alleged defect

Crucially, he suggested that Apple ought to have picked up the alleged cable issue in its testing prior to putting the machines on sale: "The court finds that the allegations of pre-release testing in combination with the allegations of substantial customer complaints are sufficient to show that Apple had exclusive knowledge of the alleged defect."

In other words, if it's true that the cable wore out by being too short, Apple would have known about it during the laptops' development and still touted the shiny gear to its fans.

The legal challenge has not been certified as a class-action lawsuit yet; the plaintiffs have to submit a revised complaint by April 16 for the court to consider. Apple declined to comment.

If the case is accepted as a class action lawsuit, it’ll be another one the Cupertino giant faces in San Jose. Last month, Judge Davila certified a case that similarly accused Apple of knowingly peddling computers fitted with its terribly defective butterfly mechanism. ®

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