Apple is in big trouble! A judge rules it knowingly sold defective 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops

15-inch MacBook Pro
(Image credit: Future)

Five years ago, Apple launched the 15-inch MacBook Pro equipped with a new Touch Bar. Unfortunately, innumerable reports about the laptop's display issues began flooding in. The PR nightmare was dubbed "flexgate."

To make amends for flexgate, Apple spearheaded a repair program in 2019, but it wasn't enough to curb a lawsuit that has landed the MacBook maker in boiling hot water in 2021. A judge stated that Apple knowingly sold defective MacBook Pros to its consumers and it must continue with legal proceedings to atone for its 2016 design disaster.

Flexgate continues to haunt Apple

Judge Edward Davila greenlit a flexgate lawsuit, ruling that Apple knew the display design on some 2016 MacBook Pros were flawed, but decided to sell them anyway. At the time, Apple made a terrible decision to swap beefy ribbon cables for thin and flimsy alternatives. Apple incorporated some of these cables into the panel, making them difficult to repair. 

The ribbon cables were also very fragile; they eventually wore out as users opened and closed the lid over time. When they tore, the screen suffered an issue called "stage-lighting effect," which showed alternating patches of black and white on the bottom of the screen. Sometimes, the display stopped working altogether.

As mentioned, Apple introduced the MacBook Display Backlight Service Program in 2019, but the problem is that this repair program only services the 2016 13-inch MacBook Pro — not the 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro, which also suffers from the same defects. Plus, as The Verge pointed out, Apple didn't launch the repair program until it cracked under pressure due to a petition of 15,000 signatures and negative press.

As such, Apple is being sued by a group of plaintiffs who want justice for their "economic injuries." Apple tried to pull a fast one, claiming that it's not liable for some plaintiffs' damages because they did not purchase the defective MacBooks themselves, but Judge Davila said, "Apple cites no authority suggesting that a person must be the original purchaser of a product in order to have standing to bring claims related to that product."

"Flexgate" isn't the only PR disaster coming back to haunt Apple. MacBook maker is also facing litigation for its faulty butterfly keyboard design.

Kimberly Gedeon

Kimberly Gedeon, holding a Master's degree in International Journalism, launched her career as a journalist for MadameNoire's business beat in 2013. She loved translating stuffy stories about the economy, personal finance and investing into digestible, easy-to-understand, entertaining stories for young women of color. During her time on the business beat, she discovered her passion for tech as she dove into articles about tech entrepreneurship, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the latest tablets. After eight years of freelancing, dabbling in a myriad of beats, she's finally found a home at Laptop Mag that accepts her as the crypto-addicted, virtual reality-loving, investing-focused, tech-fascinated nerd she is. Woot!