Blog Post

iPhone owners can’t sue Apple over broken glass, court rules

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

A federal judge in San Jose threw out a class action lawsuit from iPhone 4 owners who claimed that Apple misrepresented the strength of the phone’s glass.

The lawsuit was brought by California man Betsalel Williamson who had to replace the screen of his brand new iPhone after he knocked it off the arm of a chair, resulting “in spider cracks across the back glass panel.”

In his ruling handed down this week, US District Judge Edward Davila wrote that “it is a well known fact of life that glass can break under impact” and said the iPhone owners failed to show that Apple breached a warranty or violated California’s consumer protection laws.

The lawsuit argued that Apple ads touting the glass as “20 times stiffer and 30 times harder than plastic . . . ultradurable and more scratch resistant than ever” were misleading. It cited a study that the glass on the iPhone 4 breaks at a 82% higher rate than earlier iPhones, forcing consumers to to pay $29 to replace a cracked screen and $199 if the glass housing breaks.

Judge Davila didn’t buy the claims, however, and wrote that Steve Jobs’ claims about the glass were “mere puffery” rather than a promise that could be the basis of a lawsuit:

A “reasonable consumer” viewing a commercial showing the iPhone 4 in use as a phone, but without a cover, would not be misled to believe that the iPhone 4 could withstand any particular level of impact if the phone was dropped.

The judge noted in several other parts of the ruling that a phone without a case was more vulnerable.

Davila gave permission for the plaintiffs to amend the complaint in order to show how specifically Apple deceived them.

The judge’s ruling, which was first reported by Law360 (sub. req’d), is below with relevant portions underlined:

iPhone Screens

23 Responses to “iPhone owners can’t sue Apple over broken glass, court rules”

  1. If you know anything about PHYSICS then you would know the harder and stiffer an object like glass is the more likely it will shatter. The “hardness” and “stiffness” make it shiny and crystal clear why would any sain person sue (court cost, filing, lawyer fees must be over 500) over a 30 dollar piece of glass anyway! That judge should of had thise idiots take a psyc test lol

  2. Good grief. Another bottom-feeding lawyer fabricating a class action against a big company with lots of money, hoping to settle. If the case had proceeded, class members might have gotten a $10 iTunes gift card and the attorney a big payday. I’ve dropped my iphone 4 on asphalt and concrete several times. My heart always stops for a second, as it does when it gets wet. So far so good. The iphone is tougher than the publicity would suggest. I also know lots of people who have gotten free replacements from Apple stores. It depends on whether you act like an entitled self-important jackass.

  3. Reminds me of the Duralex tempered glasses we bought recently from Amazon. They got uniformly excellent reviews, except for four or five 1-star takedowns. Then you read them.

    “They claim they don’t break, but I threw mine against a tile floor and it shattered!”
    “I dropped mine on a marble countertop and it cracked. Fail!”

    People are morons.

      • Gorilla Glass!!!!. Htc phone got some of the tuffest screeens thanks to gorilla glass. Ive dropped my htc hd2 countless time all around the phone is scratched up but the screeen is perfect

      • Robert Paulsen

        Kajenius isn’t much of a genius, is he? The front glass on the iPhone 4, as was the case with previous versions of the iPhone, is Gorilla Glass, just like the best Android phones. The rigid frame of the iPhone, unlike the flexible plastic in some competing phones, transfers more of the shock of impact to the glass. A simple plastic or rubber case makes the iPhone 4 just about as resilient to impact as other phones.

      • Well yes, I’ve had my HTC One X screen break when it fell from chest height into a concrete gutter. However because there’s glass on both sides of the iPhone 4 and 4s and it protrudes it’s inevitable that if dropped even slightly it will shatter.
        I’ve seen it first hand.

      • My HTC hit the gutter on an angle so the casing couldn’t protect it. But it only caused a slight crack on the side of the screen, Still completely usable.
        For some reason insurance deemed it completely irreparable so I got a galaxy s3 as a replacement. Now using a heavy duty 2-part case.