Apple hit with class action lawsuit over 2011 MacBook Pro defect

A class action lawsuit was filed in a California federal court against Apple, Inc. on October 24, 2014 alleging a defect affecting Apple’s premium 2011 MacBook Pro laptops. The defect compromises the laptops’ highly touted graphical performance, causing profound graphical distortion and eventually totally system failure. Impacted owners have amassed more than 20,000 signatures in a Change.org petition calling for Apple and its CEO Tim Cook to remedy the issue. Apple has yet to publicly acknowledge the problem.

The lawsuit alleges that the defect in the 2011 MacBook Pro laptops stems from the lead-free solder used to connect one of the computer’s graphics processing chips to the main circuit board. Lead-free solder, which Apple allegedly uses because of E.U. regulations prohibiting traditional solders, tends to be far more brittle than traditional solder. The complaint alleges that the rapid and frequent temperature changes inside the laptop cause the brittle lead-free solder to crack, resulting in graphical instability issues, such as distortion, pixilation, and banding. As the cracks in the solder propagate over time, the graphical issues worsen and cause total system failure.

While the 2011 MacBook Pro laptops were under Apple’s one-year warranty, Apple would, in some cases, replace consumers’ entire logic boards in response to the graphics defect. However, scores of owners reported that even after receiving one or more new logic boards, their systems continued to display the graphics defect and crash or fail, turning their computers into “$3000 paper weights.”

Now, outside of the warranty period, a replacement logic board is still the only option that Apple offers consumers. The thousands of consumers who are aware of the graphics defect are understandably hesitant to spend $350 – 600 on a repair that swaps out a non-functional and defective part with a temporarily functional but equally defective replacement.

The plaintiffs are represented by Gary E. Mason, Steven N. Berk, and Esfand Y. Nafisi of Whitfield Bryson & Mason LLP, and Michael Ram of Ram, Olson, Cereghino & Kopczynski.

The name of the case is Book et al. v. Apple, Inc.No. 5:14-cv-0476 (N.D. Cal., filed Oct. 24, 2014).

Source: Whitfield Bryson & Mason LLP

44 Comments

  1. I hope this will wake Apple up. I was told by the local dealer that if I spent the money on a new logic board, there is an 80% chance I would be back with the same fault. When I walked in he said “another one …. Better to just buy a new Mac Book Pro”. As an Apple supporter I have bought multiple Mac Book Pros, iMacs and iPhones so my brand loyalty needs to be rewarded with a fix !

  2. It the products are out of warranty, order your own lead based solder and fix it your self. This was the same problem that caused the “red ring of death” with the Xbox 360s. And that is how people fixed them.

    1. Are you mental? How many of us have a solder reflow work station? – and the willingness, skill and knowledge to crack open a MacBook Pro and effect the work?
      Sure, there are some that can do this, and I’m sure you’ll soon inform me that it’s a piece of cake, you’ve done it dozens of times, but most of us with this problem aren’t electronics techs– and more importantly shouldn’t have to be.

    2. Um, no, I don’t think so. Apple users rightly demand higher quality standards and service, especially from top-of-the-line pro laptops.

      The most valuable company in the world should bite the bullet and replace affected MBPs with at least refurbished 2012 equivalent models, with warranties on those.

  3. I had an issue with my MacBook Pro 15″ 2008 with the graphic card and logic board.This occurred a couple of months after it was out of warranty. I telephoned Apple and was shocked to hear that they were going to overnight a new MacBook Pro with faster graphic card, memory etc.and along with it all the new software for iWork. The laptop arrived the next morning along with a box to ship my old computer in and that was it. I was amazed and always have been how Apple has always taken such good care of little old me. Same thing happened with an iPad where I posted my story here a couple of years ago and how touched I was again by their great service. I am really surprised to hear about this lawsuit and wonder if it’s a bunch of disgruntled owners or attorneys trying to make a name for themselves. It would be interesting to hear some testimonies of these people who were affected. Apple has always been good to me and I will remain a faithful user of all their devices.

    1. Nope, not a bunch of owners or attorneys trying to make a name for themselves. This problem is real, and Apple has been avoiding taking responsibility. My son’s mid 2011 Macbook Pro burned out after less than two years. He took it to the Apple Store in St. Louis and there only remedy was for HIM TO PURCHASE A NEW LOGIC BOARD AND INSTALL FOR $350. He did that and the new logic board lasted for less than a year. He has a brick now.

      Apple computers should last longer than this. After all, I’m typing this on a 2009 Macbook Pro and it works flawlessly other than the battery losing capacity over time.

    2. There are instances in which Apple products have latent defects. Apple’s customer service is generally quite good. Sometimes, however, Apple fails to deal with the issue fairly and in a timely manner. This appears to be one of those cases.

      I do not expect perfection from Apple. But I do expect the company to back up its products when a design defect becomes apparent. In addition to its product designs, Apple customer service should be insanely great.

        1. This is an idiotic statement if there ever were one, and it attempts to perpetuate a concept that most often is not valid.

          There is no product by any company that is “perfection”. There never has been, and there never will be. There are some great products. There are some fantastic products. There are even some “insanely great” products. But there have never been any perfect products.

          Also, as just one of many examples, take Apple’s most costly product–the one that most people believe gives Apple its largest gross margin–the top of the line Mac Pro, implying that if any Apple product is over priced then the top end Mac Pro must be the most overpriced. Try to put together the same machine from any other first tier vendor. It will be more expensive. I have tried to do so several times over the past 10 months, just to see if I could do it. I can’t, and unless you have extremely steep discounts at one of those top tier PC/Workstation vendors, you can’t either.

          As another example just take the latest Retina Display iMac. Dell has been rumored for the past few months to be coming out with JUST the monitor for the same price as the entry level Retina Display iMac. So you buy a monitor that is equivalent to the “soon to be released” Dell monitor and get a Mac computer for free. I’d certainly agree that falls in line with your concept of “For what they charge…” NOT!!

          Yes, there are still some Apple products that are more expensive when compared with the average vendor out there, but as a general rule, Apple’s products are cost competitive for what you get.

  4. As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m on my second replacement board and praying it will hold out. My warranty will expire in December. The genius said “these laptops weren’t meant for the type of work I am asking of it”, that’s BS!
    Apple better come through for us because I can’t afford to lay down another $3400 for a new one when I expected this one to last 4+years.
    2011 17″MBP

  5. Yes, Apple needs to replace these lemon macbook pros with new ones. My son has a paperweight right now, and that’s after getting a replacement logic board and watching that one burn out less than a year later. This is unacceptable. Apple, man up and replace these lemons from 2011. Tens of thousands of 2011 macbook pros have gone defective.

  6. I have a 15″ and 17″ 2011 MacBook Pro, the latter of which did experience a graphic failure like the one outlined in the lawsuit. Apple fixed it for $270.00, and even replaced the battery and RAM. I felt that was a very fair price, but a recall replacement would have been better.

  7. I had my logic board replaced by Apple for a reasonable $210 but I would feel a lot better about the situation if they reimbursed me since this is obviously widespread.

    1. Apple replaced the LCD in my 2011 three times before they finally gave up and gave me a brand new 2013 top of the line with a 3TB fusion drive.

      It helps a little to make up for the two 2006 20″ iMacs I have that burned up the crappy ATI-X1600 video card solder similar to what happened to these laptops.

  8. I thought this was bs but then my Mac book pro had this issue they replaced the logic board and now the same issue is happening again. I have AppleCare but only for a few months more. Yikes…

    1. It always amazes me how quick people are to jump to Apple’s defence and dismiss evidence that there’s a problem… until it happens to them. We had that even with the iOS 8.0.1 release, I saw a few people bashing other MDN readers and MDN itself (surely the bastion of anti-Apple forces) for “making up” the problem, until they were obviously proven wrong by Apple yanking it within hours of its release.

      1. It always amazes me how quick many people are to trash Apple at the slightest opportunity, no matter how flimsy.

        Plenty of people on this forum are willing to bring Apple to task when it screws up. You appear to be carrying a chip on your shoulder, mossman.

        1. “Plenty of people on this forum are willing to bring Apple to task when it screws up.”

          Yes, like me. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’re not including me in your list of people who are quick to trash Apple at the slightest, flimsiest opportunity.

          “You appear to be carrying a chip on your shoulder, mossman.”

          I’m sometimes accused of being an Apple fanboi when I defend Apple on other sites, and then 1-starred and accused of being against Apple when I’m not waving the flag 110% for them here. If annoyance at that eye-rolling silliness constitutes a chip on my shoulder, that’s your opinion.

    1. Linux is great for servers and network appliances, but it can hardly replace a Mac and still give same great experience. Having worked for Apple, I know that it’s best to keep nagging their customer relations people to get a resolution. I did that back in 2009 when my late 2007 MacBook Pro kept failing. After the fourth repair, they sent me a new mid-2009 MacBook Pro.

      1. That persistence takes time though, possibly spread over many months if repeated repairs fail. It took you 4 attempted repairs, and the problem is if this is the user’s work machine (these are high-end pro models after all) that’s a lot of repeated downtime for a machine that’s supposed to just work…. if not the first time, then certainly after the first repair. After a second repair, you start to question the QC on the product.

        Thankfully my own 2012 MBP had an issue that was fixed after the first logic board replacement, but even that took 3 visits to the Genius Bar and my own technical expertise before they acknowledged the problem (their automated tests didn’t find it after 36 straight hours. I reproduced it twice in 10 minutes after doing a full OSX reinstall in-store).

      2. I shouldn’t be nagging the manufacturer if there’s enough strong evidence of a hidden defect. I paid for the first logic board exchange, and have been using SMCFanControl manically adjusting it tens of times during my workday to keep my MBP2011 under 60C degrees.

        Macs are meant to be enjoyed and I’m not enjoying mine, and because of this and the way Apple has ignored the issue, I will not buy another Mac ever again after this one fails. I can totally understand why Derek Currie’s friend left the Mac.

  9. I too had this issue and had to pay $300 to get it replaced. The problem is endemic to the MBP2011, widespread, and worst of all: documented since month 1 of its introduction.

    Apple deserves to lose this lawsuit and the business of everyone who bought this model for not doing the right thing on time.

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