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Apple Snagged in California Class Suit Over FaceTime (1)

Sept. 19, 2018, 5:10 PMUpdated: Sept. 19, 2018, 7:12 PM

California consumers suing Apple Inc. may proceed as a class with their suit claiming Apple “broke” their iPhone 4 and 4S FaceTime function in April 2014 to save costs, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled.

The court Sept. 18 said they could move ahead as a statewide class action over the video conferencing feature, but refused to certify it nationally.

It also wouldn’t permit any class-wide remedy beyond damages. The plaintiffs sought an injunction but weren’t specific about what they wanted done, the court said.

Christina Grace and Ken Potter alleged that a patent-dispute loss pushed Apple to use an expensive relay service for FaceTime video calls. Apple then introduced a new operating system, iOS 7, that allegedly avoided the service and its fees but caused massive slowdowns in older iPhones.

Many users continued to use the old operating systems, and Apple kept incurring fees, the plaintiffs alleged. Then Apple disabled FaceTime for iOS 6 and earlier operating systems, they said.

The plaintiffs, who own iPhone 4 devices, brought claims under California consumer-protection law and under a theory that Apple interfered with their property. They sought certification of a nationwide class, or at least a California class.

Attorneys for Apple couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, but the company argued in court that a class shouldn’t be certified because Grace and Potter’s iPhone use wasn’t typical of the class. They also said for several reasons, individualized factual and legal issues predominated over issues common to the class.

The court agreed with Apple that individualized issues would predominate in a nationwide suit. California’s choice-of-law rules don’t allow the court to apply state law to a nationwide class, and applying laws from 50 states would mean common questions of law wouldn’t predominate, the court said.

But it said common questions would predominate for a California class.

Pearson Simon & Warshaw, LLP, Caldwell Cassady Currry PC, and others represented the plaintiffs.

Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Durie Tangri LLP represented Apple.

The case is Grace v. Apple, Inc., 2018 BL 337552, N.D. Cal., 17-CV-00551-LHK, 9/18/18.

(Updates with allegations and details of court action)

To contact the reporter on this story: Martina Barash in Washington at mbarash@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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