Federal judge orders arbitration in Fitbit skin burn lawsuit
Two women clamed earlier this year in a class lawsuit that Fitbit owner Google (subsidiary of Alphabet Inc) did not go far enough when it recalled only the Ionic. They say other Fitbit devices can cause burns, too.
“Reasonable consumers, like plaintiffs, purchase the products to burn calories — not their skin,” lawyers said in the lawsuit filed in federal court in San Jose.
The class suit against Google has now been put on hold. This is a victory for Google and Fitbit.
The California Federal Judge said on Friday that the customers’ claim they they didn’t remember checking a box agreeing to Fitbit’s terms of service did not hold water. As per the Terms, they will need to arbitrate the claim now.
You can read a PDF of the Judge’s decision in full on Justia US Law’s website. The case has been put on hold until the outcome of the arbitration.
Fitbit Ionic recall is still fresh in our minds
To remind, in early March Fitbit announced its decision to pull around 1.7 million Ionic smartwatches as they represented a burn hazard. Users were offered a full refund, along with a discount on further purchases. The recall follows an announcement by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
It had, apparently, been discovered that the product’s lithium-ion battery can overheat in certain instances. The company had received 115 reports in the US and a further 59 internationally of this very thing happening. We’re not sure how many Ionics were returned, but the Fitbit page offering the refund is still open. If you’re holding on to your aging Ionic, it is not too late to act.
Fitbit says that most but not all models of Ionic are effected. But two women, one from Pennsylvania and the other from California, claim the problem extends beyond the Ionic. They say that lithium ion batteries in other Fitbits can also burn users and burst into flames.
The Pennsylvania woman states that she had bought a Versa Light which ended up burning her daughter’s wrist. The California woman says that a Versa 2 did the same to her wrist. As supporting evidence, the women cite social media posts with pics of similar things happening to other Fitbit owners.
Essential reading: Best fitness trackers and health gadgets
The case was filed in the US District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose) – Houtchens v. Google LLC, 22-cv-02638 in the Spring of 2022. The plaintifs in the proposed class-action lawsuit are looking to represent other Fitbit owners in California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Washington. These states have been chosen as they have similar consumer-protection laws.
The Ionic is not the first Fitbit device that has been recalled. But you have to go back to the distant 2014 for the last significant instance. At the time the company pulled the Fitbit Force, offering a refund to owners. The device did not cause a burn hazard. Rather, it was discovered that users could develop allergic reactions in response to the stainless steel casing. More than 1 million devices were recalled.
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