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

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