SDNY Approves iPhone 4S Performance Class Action Settlement, Awards Requested Attorneys’ Fees Over Apple’s Objection

By order earlier this week, Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom gave final approval to a settlement in a class action brought by iPhone 4S owners against Apple concerning a software update that, though intended to enhance phone security, rendered the devices nearly or totally inoperable.

The suit dates to 2015 when aggrieved phone users claimed the installation of iOS 9 greatly diminished the operation and value of their devices. In 2017, the court allowed the case to proceed under the theory that consumers experienced injury after they were induced to download the software update that Apple knew would hamstring their device. The suit was brought under New York and New Jersey consumer protection statutes on behalf of similarly situated phone owners in those states.

The parties reached a settlement in May 2022 after class certification and the exchange of expert briefs. The unopposed motion for settlement noted that discovery included over 48,000 Apple-produced documents, more than 15 depositions, expert reports totaling over 770 pages, and several motions to compel.

Under the terms of the $20 million settlement, iPhone 4S owners were entitled to payment of $15 per device. In their briefing for final approval, the plaintiffs said that of the class of 1.5 million, 16% had filed claims. The plaintiffs requested one-third of the settlement amount in attorneys’ fees in addition to their costs.

Apple objected to that figure, requesting that they receive 30% not 33.33%. “Apple agrees that the plaintiffs’ counsel are entitled to an attorneys’ fee award as a result, their fees come out of the $20 million Settlement Fund, and, as such, should be fair but not excessive, and not adversely affect the recovery of the Settlement Class,” its motion said.

In this week’s opinion however, the court overrode Apple’s objections and granted class counsel’s requested fees in addition to named plaintiff service awards of $45,000.

Class counsel is Pomerantz LLP and Bronstein, Gewirtz & Grossman LLP. Apple is represented by DLA Piper US LLP.