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Saturday, March 14, 2009, 09:35 am PT (12:35 pm ET)

Apple sued over exploding iPod touch, iMac display issues

Apple's build quality has been called into question as fresh lawsuits blame the company for an iPod touch that caught on fire as well as the widely-known vertical line defect on iMac displays.

Apple charged with making 'explosive' iPod touch

The first of the lawsuits, filed on Wednesday in a Southern District of Ohio court, claims that Apple negligently built the second-generation iPod touch — incorrectly referred to as an "iTouch" through the entire complaint — with a flaw that ultimately caused serious burns.

In the 14-page suit, Lynette Antrobus of Cincinnati describes buying a 16GB iPod in November that, just two weeks later, exploded in her son's pocket and not only set his pants on fire but "melted" through to his leg, causing second degree burns. Besides these more immediately obvious losses, Antrobus also claims the impact of the unexpected event will give her son "mental distress" and other problems well past the initial damage done.

Apple didn't take enough precautions to test the iPod for this kind of risk, she argues, and didn't adequately warn buyers that there might be a risk. By encouraging owners to keep their iPods close to their bodies, the company created a recipe for disaster that was bound to injure someone.

There are also 10 anonymous John Does in the manufacturing, supply and sale chain that Antrobus also charges with negligent work in producing the iPod touch.

In an unusual turn for such suits against Apple, the plaintiff is not only looking for a specific amount in advance of any trial, at least $75,000, but isn't seeking class action status to represent all iPod touch owners.

Second lawsuit emerges over defective iMac displays

The same can't be said for the second lawsuit, which was submitted on the same day to a Northern District of California court and hopes to represent a wide swath of iMac owners.

Florida resident Roman Huff observes that his 17-inch iMac bought in November 2006 — here labeled an iMac G5 despite clearly being an Intel-based model — is representative of a display defect that affects nearly all owners of that generation of the computer.

The complaint echoes those of a similar January lawsuit and says that "thousands" of iMac owners start to see vertical lines appear on their LCDs months after first use. These gradually multiply and wash out the color of the display to where it's unusable; in an all-in-one desktop, this renders the entire system useless, Huff's suit contends.


An example of a 2006 iMac's vertical line defect.


Apple is not only said to have been violating California's Business & Professional and Commercial Codes by failing to properly test the displays, and therefore knowingly selling defective systems, but of unfairly skewing its warranty terms to evade repairing or replacing the iMacs out of its own pocket. Although the flaw reportedly exists in every affected iMac from the outset, Apple insists that any iMac outside of its one-year warranty, including Huff's, must be repaired at its owner's expense: in some cases costing as much as $800, or more than half the original price of the system.

As such, Huff asks Apple to refund the repair or replacement costs for any US resident who bought a defective iMac from 2005, when G5 models were produced, through to the present.

Apple hasn't publicly commented on either of the lawsuits and typically doesn't discuss court cases. However, the iPod touch suit is, so far, unique; Apple has had to replace iPod nanos that caught on fire due to power glitches, but hasn't had a similar rash of complaints for its touchscreen devices.