MacBook Pro stage light lawsuit dismissed; court said Apple didn’t have to disclose the flaw

Friday, May 20, 2022 10:08 AM

A class action lawsuit against Apple for the so-called MacBook Pro stage light issue has been dismissed, the court ruling that Apple had no legal obligation to disclose the design flaw.

An earlier court upheld part of the claim against Apple, while dismissing a second element …

The MacBook Pro stage light issue

Some owners of MacBook Pro models made in 2016-2018 reported a two-part problem with the displays, which occur after some period of use.

The first symptom is uneven backlighting at the bottom of the screen, reminiscent of stage lighting – hence the stage light nickname. Later, some reported that the backlighting failed altogether.

iFixit found that the problem was due to a design change Apple made with Touch Bar models of the MacBook Pro.

The problem, says the company, is caused by Apple using much thinner ribbon cables instead of the thicker wires used in previous generation MacBook Pro models.

The current generation of MacBook Pro laptops uses flexible ribbon cables to connect the display to a display controller board beneath the Touch Bar. These cables wrap over the board, where they’re secured by a pair of spring-loaded covers—and they’re subjected to the stress of bending with every opening and closure of the laptop. Within a seemingly short time, those cables are starting to fatigue and tear. The backlight cable is generally the first to go, producing the infamous “stage light” symptoms, and eventually giving out entirely when the laptop is opened more than about 40°.

When it first debuted, the design seemed fine. But as always, the devil is in the details. Apple opted for thin, fragile flex cables as opposed to the beefier wire cables used in previous designs that could be routed through the hinge instead of wrapped around it, helping mitigate the stress of repeated openings and closings.

Normally, said iFixit, a replacement ribbon cable would cost just $6 if done as a DIY repair. But because Apple made the ribbon cable part of the display assembly, it cannot be replaced, requiring a complete new display unit, costing $600.

Apple responded by offering a service program for 2016 13-inch models, but – bizarrely – not for 15-inch ones.

Class action lawsuit

Because the 15-inch model was not covered by the free repair program, a class action lawsuit was filed in which Apple was accused of continuing to sell the design without informing customers of the defective design.

A judge ruled that it could not be claimed that Apple actively hid the problem from customers, but did allow the lawsuit to proceed on the basis that omitting to inform customers could amount to ‘fraudulent omission.’

However, Patently Apple reports that a court has now ruled that Apple had no duty in law to disclose the issue.

Apple defeated an appeal to revive a would-be class action over allegedly defective MacBook Pro displays, after the Ninth Circuit said Thursday that the company had no duty to disclose the flaw.

The lawsuit alleged that MacBook Pro models released after 2016 were designed with cables that are too short and eventually fail with ordinary wear and tear. The plaintiffs claimed violations California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act and Unfair Competition Law.

The lawsuit also alleged fraudulent concealment under a common law theory, and violations of deceptive trade statutes in Washington, Florida, New Jersey, Michigan, Alaska, Missouri, Massachusetts, and Texas.