Yesterday the United States Supreme Court (the highest court in the land) announced it will hear a case regarding Microsoft and the owners of Xbox 360s. The console owners claim Microsoft’s system scratched their game disks and Microsoft refused to do anything about the design flaw and therefore want to sue Microsoft for in a class-action suit for damages.
The interesting thing about this case is that it isn’t about whether or not the disks were scratched by the system or negligence, and either way it won’t rule whether Microsoft was at fault for any potential design flaws. The case is really about whether or not the Xbox 360 customers have a right to sue Microsoft in a class action lawsuit. The case itself has yet to reach an actual trial and has been in flux since 2007. According to the testimony of the plaintiffs, Microsoft was aware of a design flaw that could damage game disks if the console was moved or repositioned.
Microsoft, on the other hand, claims gamers reporting disk scratching are incredibly rare (affecting 0.4% of customers at most) and that any scratching is the fault of the gamer.
In 2012, a judge ruled there weren’t enough complaints to justify a class action lawsuit and dismissed the suit. In March 2015, however, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overruled that decision, and now the case itself is being taken to the highest court in the land. When the Supreme Court rules on the case, we will know whether or not in this specific circumstance, Microsoft will be able to be taken to court. If the court rules against Microsoft, I am willing to bet there will be a settlement before trial.
This case really shows how long the courts can drag on forever. Hell, this case is almost a decade long and there haven’t even been opening arguments yet! Of course, this suit was started a few years before Microsoft took away your right to sue the company in a class action lawsuit. Ubisoft, Sony, and EA all have the same terms. The reason they specify class action lawsuits is because one individual claim may be too small to legitimately file (would one person go to court over 3 scratched game disks?), a class action suit has more leverage, and it’s also easier to pool together money for a good lawyer to challenge a large company. So really, Microsoft adding that clause to its EULA is so cases like this one don’t even start.