'Ambulance Chaser' Lawsuits Hound Apple Over iPhone 4

If you bought slightly flawed new phone, do you deserve a cash payday?

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Less than a week after the iPhone 4 came out, the personal injury lawyers at Kershaw, Cutter & Ratinoff were taking out advertisements and soliciting clients for a potential class-action lawsuit against Apple.

"If you recently purchased the new iPhone and have experienced poor reception quality," read an ad posted by the firm. "We would like to hear from you."

In short order, the Silicon Valley firm filed a class-action lawsuit seeking punitive damages from Apple for reception issues associated with the new iPhone 4. Already three other firms filed similar suits with many more expected to follow. The issue at hand is that for some users the signal strength fades when holding the phone at the bottom left corner. For the last week, the issue has consumed the tech press and Apple's response has been noticeably lacking. But who are these suits really helping?

It's hard to say. Surveying the rapid litigious escalation, Ben Patterson at Yahoo News made a blunt point: "You can be sure that the lawyers smell blood." As new claims pile up, a handful of business and technology writers have become similarly jaded:

  • There's a Name for This Type of Behavior, writes John Biggs at TechCrunch: "This is, essentially, ambulance chasing disguised as striving for the common good. Clearly if you don’t get iPhone reception where you are, death grip or no, you probably have other options, including Android phones galore." Philip Elmer-DeWitt sighs, "Nobody except maybe a few lawyers is going to get rich from this."
  • This Is Surreal, writes Nick Saint at Business Insider: "It is ridiculous to suggest that the iPhone 4 is unfit for its intended purpose. It's an awesome phone. Unlike earlier models, it's even good as a phone unless you refuse to cover the 'death spot' and hold it in your left hand. It has an embarrassing design flaw that might force you to change your grip or shell out for a case. If that's a dealbreaker, don't preorder a phone no one has ever used. The fact is, no one has really been put out all that badly by this. Apple screwed up, and has handled it childishly. And in our tort-happy society, that means people think they deserve a big pay day. They don't."
  • Consumers Can Only Blame Themselves, writes Sam Diaz at ZDNet: "The problem isn’t that Apple and AT&T are knowingly selling phones with reception problems. The bigger problem is that consumers keep buying them - knowing full well that the AT&T’s service ranks as the worst in some areas."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.