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Apple Wins Case Over ‘Error 53’ Wiped iPhones

June 21, 2016, 4:19 PM UTC

Some iPhone owners got a nasty surprise in February when, after bringing the device for repairs, they saw an ominous “Error 53” message upon restarting their phones. Translation: Your fancy gadget is now a glorified paperweight.

After much confusion and hand-wringing in Apple circles, the company admitted that Error 53 was a sort of over-zealous security feature that kicked in when a non-Apple technician repaired the iPhone’s Touch ID feature.

Apple (AAPL) eventually issued a software fix that let people restore their device through iTunes, and apologized to users for the inconvenience. The company also said anyone who had paid out of pocket to address the issue could apply for a reimbursement.

But this is America so the story would not be complete without a class action lawsuit. In this case, lawyers filed at least two such suits, asking Apple to pay up for damage to the phones, false advertising and other alleged wrong-doings.

On Monday, however, a judge in California threw out one of the cases on the grounds the iPhone users could not show they had been harmed.

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In a terse ruling, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria concluded that the plaintiffs had no standing to sue because their claims over “lost data” was not separate from claims over a defective iPhone—and Apple had already addressed that by fixing the software and offering to cover any repair claims.

Chhabria likewise chucked the false advertising claims, saying the iPhone owners had not shown any evidence that Apple had known about the Error 53 defect while marketing the device. “[T]he mere fact that a company has designed a product doesn’t mean it automatically knows about all of that product’s potential design flaws,” he wrote.



The ruling is a defeat for the iPhone owners, but it did leave them the opportunity to amend their complaint to try again to show harm. The judge, in particular, referred to one plaintiff who said he lost data permanently because he restored the phone to factory settings—but said the current version of the complaint did not frame this a legal loss.

Meanwhile, a similar lawsuit is also ongoing in Seattle. You can read the California ruling here.