A San Francisco federal judge has expressed a tentative view that Apple may have been negligent in the design and oversight of its AirTags tracking product, signaling a potential denial of a class-action lawsuit dismissal brought by stalking victims. The judge suggested that the plaintiffs’ claim of negligence under California law was adequately alleged and indicated potential culpability for product liability damages. Apple’s AirTags, designed to locate lost items, have faced criticism for enabling stalking, and the judge opined that Apple should have foreseen this issue, a key element in a negligence claim. The judge also acknowledged the emotional harm suffered by the plaintiffs due to AirTags facilitating stalking, considering it just as valid as physical harm.
The judge pointed out that Apple may have failed to consider the potential for stalking issues with AirTags, despite warnings from various quarters. He noted that the emotional harm inflicted by stalking facilitated by AirTags should be treated seriously under California law. While the judge suggested potential negligence claims, he also indicated uncertainty regarding product liability damages. The judge recognized that the plaintiffs had suffered significant emotional harm due to stalking facilitated by AirTags, emphasizing that emotional injuries should be treated similarly to physical injuries under California law.
The judge, in considering the plaintiffs’ claims, expressed doubt about treating emotional injuries differently from physical injuries and questioned Apple’s responsibility in designing AirTags. Plaintiffs’ lawyer David Slade highlighted the impact of stalking on victims, emphasizing instances where individuals had to alter their lives due to unwanted tracking. The judge indicated that Apple’s AirTags, designed for relatively mundane purposes like finding keys, differ significantly in societal value compared to technologies like cell phones. He also acknowledged the potential misuse of AirTags for serious criminal conduct and the strong public policy in California against individuals becoming victims of stalking.
Apple is facing a class-action lawsuit from stalking victims who allege that the AirTags tracking product empowered their abusers. The judge’s tentative view suggests that Apple may be held responsible for negligence and product liability damages in connection with the AirTags design and oversight.