Apple victory in iPod hearing lawsuit upheld

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The US Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit has upheld a lower-court ruling that found that iPods do not pose an undue risk of hearing damage.

The long-running class-action lawsuit was initially filed in the U.S. District Court of Northern California in January of 2006 on behalf of Baton Rouge, La., resident John Kiel Patterson, and later amended with Joseph Birdsong of Louisiana and Bruce Waggoner of California as class representatives. In both cases, the plaintiffs claimed that the iPod is defective because it’s capable of producing sound levels up to 115 decibels, which are well above the standard set by the National Institute of Occupation Safety and Health. “Studies indicate that exposure to 115 dB for more than 28 seconds per day, over time, can cause permanent damage,” the lawsuit contended.

In 2008, the court dismissed the case, ruling that the plaintiffs did not provide evidence that iPods were defective or that they had been harmed by the portable music players. Indeed, none of the lawsuit documents examined by Macworld reveal that any of the plaintiffs has suffered any actual hearing damage from using an iPod; rather, they claim that an iPod could be used in such a way as to damage a person’s ability to hear and that Apple has only provided generic warnings to that effect.

Wednesday’s appeal court decision upholds that 2008 dismissal on the same grounds. “At most, the plaintiffs plead a potential risk of hearing loss not to themselves, but to other unidentified iPod users,” Senior Judge David Thompson wrote, according to this Reuters report on the appeal court’s 3-0 decision to uphold the lower court’s ruling.

In other words, the onus for using iPods properly is squarely on users, the court has ruled.

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