By Jon Hood

May 7, 2009
A group of MacBook and MacBookPro owners have filed suit in federal court in California, claiming that Apples MagSafe power connectors have a dangerous design flaw that could cause a break or even start a fire.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, alleges that the MagSafe connector dangerously frays, sparks, and prematurely fails to work under ordinary conditions and that the adapters are flawed and dangerous and present fire hazards.

The suit covers 85- and 60-watt versions of the power connectors. According to the complaint, the adapters wires eventually fray, negatively affecting performance and posing a fire hazard. Tim Broad, one of the named plaintiffs, says that the adapter almost burned my hand when I brushed it accidentally, and that it could have started a fire in his house had he not known about the problem and been vigilant in keeping an eye on it.

This is not the first time Apple has dealt with such problems; the company pulled the 85-watt versions from store shelves in October 2007, after reports that those connectors too were overheating, and in some cases smoking and sparking.

Apple also settled another class action in May 2008, which involved earlier versions of the MacBook and MacBookPro adapters. That suit alleged that Apple covered up the problem even after becoming aware of its existence. The settlement provided for reimbursement of between $25 and $79 for every person who owned one of the adapters.

The complaint accuses Apple of being negligent in designing the adapters, and says that Apple has not taken action to remedy the defects. The suit alleges breaches of consumer of express and implied warranties and California business codes. The plaintiffs are seeking money for replacement adapters, reimbursement for consumers who already bought new units, and punitive damages.

Plaintiffs Tim Broad, Naotaka Kitagawa and Jesse Reisman have all had to buy replacement adapters at one time or another, meaning they had to fork over about $80 of their hard-earned money.

According to the suit, the issue affects at least thousands and potentially hundreds of thousands of consumers, meaning that any eventual settlement would likely be in the millions. The suit envisions a class of plaintiffs made up of any consumer with an affected MacBook.

AppleInsider, a popular Mac-centric site, notes that Apple began redesigning the adapters after the October 2007 recall, but that any improvements havent been enough to solve the problem: customers have reported issues with fraying wires as recently as March 2009, long after the new adapters were on shelves.