A proposed class action filed late last week claims a defect in certain Apple Watches causes their screens to break, crack or detach unexpectedly.
The 56-page lawsuit claims the apparent defect—which the case says affects all models and sizes of the First Generation, Series 1 through Series 6, and Series SE Apple Watches—is a result of Apple’s failure to provide sufficient space inside its watches to allow for the lithium-ion battery to swell. Without a “thermal or other solution” to prevent the battery from swelling or a protective guard to keep it from making contact with the watch face, a swollen battery puts pressure on the screen and can cause it to break, shatter or detach, the case relays.
A broken or detached screen, aside from preventing a user from operating their Apple Watch, also poses a significant safety risk as the edges of the Ion-X or sapphire crystal glass used in the devices’ screens are razor sharp and can cause lacerations, cuts, abrasions and other serious injuries, the lawsuit alleges.
One of the plaintiffs who filed the case claims to have suffered severe injury when his watch face detached and sliced the underside of his forearm. Prior to his injury, the plaintiff’s watch had no cracks or damage, with only a few cosmetic scratches, according to the complaint. The plaintiff says he was sitting in a golf cart on September 8, 2020 when the glass from his Apple Watch screen, which had popped off and was hanging from the device by only a “tiny flexible wire” (shown below), cut a vein in his arm.
The lawsuit claims Apple has known of the defect in its watches for years yet failed to provide an appropriate remedy. When users attempt to have their watches fixed, Apple refuses to pay for the repairs and instead blames the broken screens on “accidental damage” caused by the wearer, the case says. Moreover, even if consumers pay the exorbitant fee to have their Apple Watch repaired, they still run the risk of experiencing future harm as the repaired watch would still be afflicted with the same defect, according to the suit.
The lawsuit alleges consumers would not have purchased the Apple Watch, or would have paid less, had they known the devices were defective and posed a significant safety hazard.
Lawsuit Claims Alleged Defect Has Long History
The case claims Apple has known about its watch screens’ propensity to crack, shatter or detach since, or even before, it started selling them in 2015.
While advertising the “smart watches” as safe and highlighting their ability to contribute to healthier lifestyles, Apple concealed from consumers that the devices were plagued by a defect that presents a “substantial” risk of serious injury and renders the watches unusable, the suit alleges.
According to the case, users began complaining to Apple about the watches’ propensity to break “almost immediately” after the tech giant released the First-Generation Apple Watch. The suit claims the Apple Watch “Support Communities” forum is replete with complaints from users who reported that their Apple Watch faces detached or broke.
Nevertheless, the case says, Apple has refused to recall or repair the watches under warranty and instead charges consumers anywhere from $159 to $2,800 for repairs, depending on the series and model.
The proposed class action goes on to claim that Apple announced a screen replacement program in August 2019 through which the company promised to replace the screen free of charge on certain eligible Apple Watches. According to the suit, the program only covered aluminum models of the Apple Watch Series 2 and Series 3 devices whose screens cracked in a particular way. Moreover, the case claims Apple knew that its screen repairs would not resolve the underlying issue with the watches. According to the suit, watches whose screens were replaced under the program “continue to fail at a high rate.”
The case further notes that Apple has faced prior litigation over the alleged defect in its Apple Watches. While one case was dismissed for being too “vague,” another proposed class action was voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiff in April 2020 after partially surviving Apple’s attempt to have the case thrown out.
Who Does the Lawsuit Look to Cover?
The lawsuit seeks to cover anyone who purchased, other than for resale, a First Generation, Series 1, Series 2, Series 3, Series 4, Series 5, Series 6 or Series SE Apple Watch in the U.S. for personal, consumer or household use.
How Do I Join the Lawsuit?
There’s typically nothing you need to do to join a class action lawsuit. If the case moves forward and settles, that’s when class members, i.e., the people mentioned in the above section, should be able to file a claim for whatever compensation the court deems appropriate.
Keep in mind that it may take months or years for a class action to be resolved. In the meantime, one of the best things you can do is to stay informed. Check back to this page for updates.
You can also get class action news and settlement information sent straight to your inbox by signing up for ClassAction.org’s free weekly newsletter here.
Warning: The complaint below contains a graphic image of the plaintiff’s injury.