Green & Noblin, P.C., Obtains a Victory
in a Class Action Against Hewlett-Packard
Green & Noblin, P.C., obtained a favorable ruling on September 26, 2008 from
Court of Appeal for the Sixth Appellate District, allowing a class action
to move forward against Hewlett-Packard Company. The evidence before the
trial court showed that, only weeks after releasing certain Pavilion notebook
computers, HP received complaints of dim, dark, or flickering display
screens. HP determined that the inverters in those computers were failing
at unacceptably high rates, causing the displays to malfunction. HP nevertheless
did not notify consumers of the defect and continued to sell the computers.
Additionally, HP quoted consumers whose warranties had expired $650 to
fix the problem, even though the inverter manufacturer not HP
bore all the expenses of the repairs, and even though an inverter costs
$20 or less.
The trial court certified the case as a class action in January 2007.
HP thereafter filed a petition for writ review in the California Court
of Appeal. HP argued that class certification was improper pursuant to
a 2006 California Court of Appeal decision titled Daugherty v. American
Honda Co., Inc.
In Daugherty, the plaintiffs were owners of Honda automobiles with engines
allegedly suffered from oil leaks causing severe mechanical problems.
The Daugherty court
found that Honda could not be liable for breach of warranty based on latent
defects appearing after the expiration of Hondas express warranty,
and that Hondas alleged failure to disclose a defect that
might, or might not, shorten the effective life span of an automobile
part that functions precisely as warranted throughout the term of its
express warranty could not render Honda liable for fraudulent, unfair,
or unlawful conduct under Californias Unfair Competition Law. HP
argued that Daugherty invalidated the legal theory at the core of the
plaintiffs case and that, as a result, a class-wide judgment would
not establish HPs liability to the entire class rendering class
The California Court of Appeal disagreed. First, the court found that
the question as to
whether or not Daugherty invalidated some of the class members claims
was irrelevant. The
court agreed with Green & Noblin, P.C. that class certification is a procedural
determination as to
whether the issues may be jointly tried based on common evidence, and
not a determination as to whether an action is legally or factually meritorious.
Attorney Scott Leviant, in a post about the decision on The Complex Litigator
blog, wrote Ive been waiting for a decision that, in plain
language, said success or failure of claims is irrelevant to the question
Second, the court noted that it was not persuaded by HPs reliance
on Daugherty for its
position that a product malfunction is required in order for the product
to be defective. The
Court agreed with Green & Noblin, P.C., based on another California Court of
Appeal decision titled
Hicks v. Kaufman & Broad Home Corp., that proof of a breach of warranty
does not require
proof that the product has malfunctioned, but rather that it contains
an inherent defect which is
substantially certain to result in a malfunction during the products
useful life. Pursuant to Hicks
and based on the evidence, the court noted that a jury could find that
the inverters in question
were defective and that HP is liable for the defect.
Prior to this decision, corporate defendants have tried to use Daugherty,
success, to limit breach of warranty claims to situations where a product
fails and a manufacturer refuses to repair or replace it during the warranty
period, and to argue that a sellers failure to disclose a known
defect may never be considered unfair or fraudulent conduct violating
consumer protection laws. This decision, however, recognizes that such
a reading of Daugherty is far too narrow and therefore constitutes a significant
victory for consumers rights.
The decision is titled Hewlett-Packard Company v. The Superior Court of
County. Click here to
view a copy of the opinion.
Green & Noblin, P.C. has been contacted by many consumers with similar
complaints. If you have experienced this problem, a similar problem, or
would like more information about the lawsuit, please contact us at (415)
477-6700 or by clicking here.