Despite iPhone 6 release, class action proceeds against Apple’s 3G

Many high-profile companies often find themselves at the heart of litigation because of misrepresentation. A recent case-in-point involves Apple, Inc.

Many high-profile companies often find themselves at the heart of litigation for a variety of reasons. False advertising is a common one. Businesses that make false, deceptive, or misleading statements regarding the use of their products, and such statements are relied upon by consumers, will often face a civil lawsuit for the misrepresentation.

A case-in-point involves Apple, Inc. The electronics giant most known for Mac computers, iPads, and iPhones has been in the spotlight recently amid a recent court ruling regarding a class action lawsuit filed against the company for misrepresentation regarding its iPhone 3G smartphone launched back in 2008.

The class action

A class action, made up of iPhone 3G owners, was instituted in 2010 in California Superior Court in Santa Clara County. The lawsuit, filed by Ingrid Van Zant on behalf of the class, alleged that Apple misrepresented claims to consumers about the phone's speed.

Specifically, plaintiffs argue that the new upgrade was not faster than the previous iPhone 2G version, a marketing claim touted by the company. Along with false representation, plaintiffs are also alleging breach of warranty, negligence, and unjust enrichment.

In 2013, the lower court dismissed the action. The court reasoned that the speed of the iPhone 3G was attributed to AT&T's network performance, not a flaw in the design of the product manufactured by Apple, and thus ruled that AT&T should be named as a co-defendant.

The case proceeded onto the state appellate level. A three-judge panel from the Court of Appeal of the State of California, Sixth Appellate District disagreed with the lower court ruling and reversed.

The appellate court ruling

The Court of Appeal essentially stated the AT&T need not be a necessary party to the lawsuit. Apple's "iPhone 3G's performance is not necessarily intertwined with the functioning of AT&T's network," the court stated. And even if the phone was, the panel ruled, allegations against AT&T can be filed in a separate lawsuit.

The court outlined an analogy: If the plaintiff argues that "her television gets poor reception solely because its cable input port is defective; this claim would not require her to sue her cable provider as a necessary party. At its core, Van Zant's complaint is no different from any other claim for defectively manufactured technology."

The ruling reversed the original dismissal and remanded the case back to the lower court.

It remains to be seen what repercussions, if any, Apple faces-even despite the recent release of the company's iPhone 6 smarphone gaining widespread attention.

Keywords: False advertising, Apple, Inc., class action