Forum Rules (Everyone Must Read!!!) (updated: 04/28/2015)

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Looking for advice about filing a consumer protection lawsuit.

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  • Looking for advice about filing a consumer protection lawsuit.

    I realize this is not about bankruptcy, however this is about a (contemplated) legal matter, and I usually get very good advice here, so here goes:

    On or about September of 2011, I purchased a new laptop. The laptop came with a 1-year limited warranty, which expired in October of 2012. This laptop was used exclusively in our home, and was never dropped, abused, etc. Over time, I noticed more and more "play" in the hinges which support the display.

    In December of 2013, I unfolded the computer, and it made a loud "snap" and the screen fell back all the way. The laptop is no longer usable because of this.

    I looked online and found that thousands of people have had this same kind of problem with this particular model, often times within the first 6 months of ownership. Even the manufacturer's own online forums are full of dozens of threads about people complaining about this exact same problem on this exact same model.

    More importantly, the cause is said to be a defective design, as the hinges which require significant force to operate are each anchored to two flimsy plastic posts in the bottom casing of the laptop. The ABS plastic lacks sufficient tensile strength to withstand this torque, and disintegrates over time. In December of 2012, the manufacturer issued a technical service bulletin to its authorized service partners, the abstract of which can be read online, which is that the bottom casing of this laptop has been redesigned, and a new part number has been created. The improved version has a steel plate where each hinge attaches, so the hinges screw into the steel, rather than into flimsy plastic.

    I downloaded a copy of the laptop's service manual, and was able to disassemble the computer and confirm that the two mounting posts for each hinge had cracked and crumbled.

    In January of 2014, I called the computer manufacturer's technical support to report the problem, and request a free repair or replacement case bottom--of the redesigned part number. The technician I spoke to refused to do that, claiming that the computer was out of warranty, and referred me to their consumer affairs department.

    I called the consumer affairs department, and the first person I spoke to denied knowledge of any defect; when I gave him the engineering bulletin number and the part number of the redesigned case bottom, he transferred me to a supervisor who admitted the defect, but refused to repair the computer since the limited warranty has ended.

    I followed up with a demand letter, sent Certified Mail, outlining the problem, and requesting that they agree to repair the laptop for free, or send me the redesigned case bottom so that I can repair it myself.

    Two weeks have elapsed since the date that the letter was delivered, and so far I have heard nothing back. (Perhaps a reply will take longer than this?)

    I am seeking any advice from the experts on this forum as to whether it is even worth pursuing this legally, and if so when and how to pursue this legally.

    I contend that since this is a design defect as opposed to a manufacturing defect or normal wear and tear, it can be argued that the computer was defective since day one, and thus the fact that the defect did not become apparent until after the limited warranty expired is irrelevant. Additionally, I contend that this design defect renders the product unfit and unsuitable for its intended purpose, in violation of state and federal consumer protection laws.

    However, the manufacturer is a California corporation, and I am located in Arizona. I am unsure if a civil suit would have to be filed there or here. In addition, I can purchase the part myself online for about $75.00 including the shipping, so I am not sure if pursuing legal action would be profitable for me.

    As a non-attorney, I cannot collect legal fees, so the best I could hope for is to recover my court costs, photocopying and service fees, and obtain a free repair or replacement case bottom.

    Thank you for your advice.
    Last edited by AngelinaCat; 01-28-2014, 08:46 PM. Reason: 1986

  • #2
    You can sue anybody for anything. However, you must bear the costs if you lose. A lawyer will say if we win I get 33%, but in your contract is that you are responsible for the costs. Since the warranty was up almost two years ago you have no claim. Laptops are designed only to last 2-3 years because of extensive use. I think you would be better off getting it fixed or buying a new one.


    • #3
      Thank you for your advice. I have no idea what an attorney would charge, nor do I care, because I won't be using one. And yes, I realize that anyone can sue anybody for anything, such as the woman who spilled McDonald's coffee between her legs and walked away with millions for her stupidity.

      My question is whether my claim has sufficient merit to justify the investment of filing and pursuing a lawsuit, which would probably be somewhere from $200 to $500, depending on how many motions and other documents have to be filed with the court, etc. There have been several successful class-action lawsuits over defective laptops--some filed years after the affected models were released--so the fact that the limited warranty has expired clearly does not absolve a company of responsibility for a bona fide design defect. Also, there is an implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose, which cannot be limited by a manufacturer. In this case, the design defect renders the product unfit for the intended purpose.

      Additionally the cost of getting the laptop fixed would not be the hundreds that the manufacturer's repair depot would charge for an "out of warranty" repair. I can do it myself for approximately $75, which is what I would pay to purchase the redesigned case bottom online.


      • #4
        You will need a lawyer to make such a BIG move. You can file a claim in small claims court against the manufacturer for the defective laptop. Small claims is simple and the laptop maker just may send you a check for the amount you are suing for. If you insist on class action or consumer protection you will need to find a lawyer that will take it. It would have to be more then just you in such a lawsuit since the damages in most State courts have to reach a certain dollar amount and it's $25k in Federal court. I have had many dealings with courts & lawyers over the years and it takes quite a few conversations with several to find out if you do have a case and if any lawyer will take it.


        • #5
          Given the age of the computer, it is not worth the cost. Since the computer is two years past warranty, you have a very weak case and the fact that you did not complain about the hinge while under warranty makes your case even weaker. If you feel "cheated" or something similar, then try small claims court. The best way to deal with them IMHO, is to buy a new computer from another company and let everyone you know how dissatisfied you are with the original company.
          Lawyer - $3000
          Filing fee - $299
          Fresh Start - Priceless


          • #6
            Update: Today, I received an apologetic phone call from an executive at the computer manufacturer. The man apologized for the bad experience I had with their computer and said that I should be receiving a shipping carton and pre-paid mailing label, and that they will repair the computer with the redesigned case bottom at no cost to me. I am very happy to hear that, as I really liked this computer while it was working!


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