Class Action Lawsuit Alleges Fitbit Products Can Overheat, Burn Skin [UPDATE]
Last Updated on December 20, 2022
December 20, 2022 – Fitbit Burns Class Action Kicked to Arbitration
The proposed class action detailed on this page was sent to arbitration by United States District Judge Beth Labson Freeman on December 16, 2022.
In a 14-page order, Judge Freeman granted Google’s motion to compel arbitration—i.e., the use of an arbitrator to settle a dispute out of court—on the grounds that the plaintiffs affirmatively agreed to Google’s arbitration policy upon creating their Fitbit accounts.
Although the plaintiffs disputed assenting to Fitbit’s terms of service, Judge Labson did not find this to be a convincing argument. For one, the court found that hyperlinks to Fitbit’s terms of service during the account sign-up process provided the plaintiffs with “reasonably conspicuous notice” of the terms.
With regard to the plaintiffs’ contention that the Fitbit arbitration provision is unenforceable, the court found that the policy was fine given it provided consumers an opportunity to opt out.
The parties must provide the court with a status update within 60 days of December 16 and within ten days of the conclusion of arbitration.
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A proposed class action alleges at least 12 Fitbit smartwatch products can overheat, burn users, and pose a potential fire hazard.
The 54-page complaint out of California alleges the Fitbit models at issue each suffer from an identical design defect that involves their battery and charging systems. As a result, the Fitbits are “unreasonably dangerous” and unsuitable for their intended purpose, the case says.
Be sure to scroll down to learn which Fitbit smartwatches are mentioned in the lawsuit—and why there’s nothing you need to do to “join” the class action.
The suit, filed on April 29, comes nearly two months after Google, Fitbit’s parent company, announced in tandem with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) a voluntary recall of roughly 1.7 million Fitbit Ionic smartwatches due to the “prevalent nature” of the burn risk. The lawsuit contends, however, that although only one Fitbit product was recalled, the same defect exists in more than 10 other Fitbit devices—and has been a problem for years.
“Defendant fails to acknowledge this, and instead places the blame on one ‘bad apple’ to avoid liability and diminished sales for the ‘whole bunch,’” the complaint alleges, claiming consumers have been exposed to “unneeded physical injury and economic harm.”
Per the case, Google has danced around how widespread the Fitbit burn problem actually is, and the company’s March 2022 recall was merely a profit-protecting “façade” that made it unreasonably difficult for consumers to receive compensation for their defective smartwatches.
As the lawsuit tells it, when a consumer contacts Fitbit about the alleged safety issue, the company attempts to shift blame onto the individual’s hygiene, rather than focus on the actual defect plaguing the smartwatches.
“Reasonable consumers, like Plaintiffs, purchase the Products to burn calories – not their skin – and to safely pursue a healthy lifestyle with the aid of a smartwatch,” the suit states.
Fitbit Ionic recall was “inadequate,” suit claims
The complaint relays that although the defect has existed for years in each of the specified devices, Google’s “feigned recall attempt” focuses solely on the Fitbit Ionic, which hasn’t been produced since 2020 and hasn’t been sold since 2021.
In other words, rather than fixing the defect, telling the truth to consumers, and protecting consumers that trusted in the company, Google merely places blame on a long deactivated device.”
Further, the suit says, the Ionic recall “conveniently” aligns with the expected launch of the Fitbit Ionic 2, a replacement for the defunct initial version that has reportedly been in development since at least 2019.
Overall, Google’s Fitbit Ionic recall allowed the company to say it was doing right by consumers, the lawsuit argues, yet in fact allowed the tech giant, who acquired Fitbit in January 2021, to suppress refunds.
For one, the recall failed to address previous owners who formerly owned, yet did not currently possess, an Ionic smartwatch, the case relays. Further, affected consumers were forced to use multiple third-party platforms, each with their own “additional, onerous terms and confusing procedures within,” as the means to obtain compensation, the suit says. The case also claims that consumers were not sufficiently notified of the recall and were offered compensation that was “grossly insufficient.”
Fitbit users speak up, share their experiences
The lawsuit alleges that Google, rather than admit certain Fitbits suffer from a defect, has consistently denied the existence of a wider problem and refuses to offer replacements. When consumers seek out help for the issue, Google claims that the device is no longer under warranty and often tries to sell the user a new Fitbit, the suit says. Further, the complaint alleges Google’s “agents and employees” have actively removed online posts from Fitbit users who have voiced complaints.
The lawsuit scathes that Google’s denial of the true extent of the Fitbit defect “creates undue risk, danger, and harm throughout all aspects of everyday life.”
“This danger is ever-present,” the case says. “Thus the Defect removes all utility from the products.”
Included in the complaint are numerous images that purport to show the injuries of Fitbit users who allege they’ve been burned while using their devices as intended:
The complaint goes on to state that Google’s denial as to the extent of the problem unnecessarily exposes millions of airline passengers to danger given the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prohibits consumers from traveling with damaged or recalled batteries. The case says that although some passengers may be aware that the Ionic is faulty, they are “oblivious” to the fact that other Fitbits suffer from the same problem.
Similarly, Google has put children at risk and has left many parents with potentially dangerous Fitbits that have no value and that they do not want to sell to another person for fear of harm, the lawsuit relays. Instead, the device may be either thrown away or stashed in a closet, the suit says.
Which Fitbit smartwatches are mentioned in the lawsuit?
According to the lawsuit, the following Fitbit models, and possibly others, pose a burn risk to users:
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Who’s covered by the lawsuit?
The proposed class action looks to represent consumers nationwide who bought any of the Fitbit products listed above within the statute of limitations.
How do I join the lawsuit?
Generally speaking, you don’t have to do anything to join, sign up for, or add your name to a proposed class action lawsuit. It is only if the case moves forward and settles that the people who are affected by the allegations—that is, the “class members”—would need to act. Should a suit settle, class members would likely receive notice of the deal by mail or email. This notice will contain information on their legal rights, how to file a claim and what proof they might need to show to take part in the settlement.
With that in mind, most class action cases take time to work through the legal process, usually toward a settlement, dismissal or arbitration. For now, Fitbit owners (and anyone else interested in class action lawsuit and settlement news) should sign up for ClassAction.org’s free weekly newsletter.
A PDF of the complaint can be found below.
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