Consumer fraud class actions seeking damages for allegedly defective products that, for one reason or another, have not satisfied the purchasers' expectations have become as commonplace as traffic gridlock in Los Angeles. Often, these actions are founded, not on the product's warranty, but instead on the manufacturer's alleged concealment of a "defect" that manifested itself only after expiration of the product's warranty. A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Wilson v. Hewlett-Packard Company, No. 10-16249 (9th Cir. Feb. 16, 2012), could make pursuing such actions, at least in federal courts, more difficult.
The plaintiffs in Wilson purchased Hewlett-Packard (HP) laptops, which stopped working not long after expiration of their two-year limited warranties. A claimed design defect in the power jack prevented the computers from receiving electric power and, in the case of one plaintiff, caused his laptop to catch fire. The warranties having expired, HP rejected demands that it foot the bill to repair or replace the computers.
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