Court: Apple has right to inspect iPhone man claims burned his arm


First posted: Monday, July 10, 2017 03:16 PM EDT | Updated: Monday, July 10, 2017 03:24 PM EDT

TORONTO — A man who claims his overheated iPhone 5 burned his arm badly has lost his legal bid to keep the phone out of Apple’s hands if he wants to pursue his damages claim against the company.

In dismissing the novel challenge from Matthew Riddell, the Ontario Court of Appeal found no reason to interfere with a lower court who agreed Apple should be able to inspect the phone.

“In this products-liability case, the appellant seeks damages for what he alleges were personal injuries caused by the negligent manufacture of an iPhone,” the Appeal Court said.

“Yet he refused, absent a court order, to permit an independent third-party expert to inspect the iPhone prior to trial at no cost to him to assist the trial judge in determining the central matter in dispute between the parties.”

Riddell launched a $25,000 lawsuit in small claims court against Apple Canada claiming his iPhone 5 overheated, causing severe burns to his right arm. Apple asked to inspect the phone but Riddell refused.

In November 2015, a small-claims judge ordered him to turn over the phone to Apple for expert examination ahead of a hearing. The judge found that the phone was at the foundation of the damages claim and it would be unfair to make Apple go to trial “without the benefit of an inspection.”

Riddell turned to Divisional Court in Oshawa, Ont. for a review of the decision. Central to his argument was that the small-claims judge had no authority to make the inspection order and that his reasons for doing so were deficient.

Divisional Court disagreed.

“In this case, it is clear that an examination of the iPhone 5 is critical to a proper determination whether it could have caused the damages that the applicant claims,” the panel stated. “The applicant categorically said that he would be calling expert evidence. In light of that stated intent, fairness required that the respondent be given the same opportunity that the applicant would have to inspect the iPhone 5.”

Riddell then asked the Court of Appeal to weigh in, similarly with no success. Apart from agreeing with Divisional Court’s findings and reasoning, the province’s top court noted that such pre-trial inspections in small claims court should be the exception rather than the rule.

The higher court also rejected Riddell’s argument that allowing such exceptions would undermine the mandate of the small claims court to deal quickly, cheaply and effectively with cases. The small-claims judge’s inspection order was entirely justified under the circumstances.

“Trial fairness, the interests of justice, and the proper exercise of the trial judge’s functions...all compelled this result,” the Appeal Court said.

The court declined to award any costs given the novel and public interest dimensions of the issues raised on appeal.

Apple has faced similar lawsuits elswhere and others have claimed to have suffered burns because of faulty iPhones.

In 2014, a British teenager was reported to have been left with a five-centimetre burn on his arm after he fell asleep lying on his iPhone. A year ago, an Australian said he suffered painful burns to his thigh when his iPhone 6 exploded in his pocket.

Court: Apple has right to inspect iPhone man claims burned his arm | Toronto & G