On Monday, Apple achieved a significant legal victory as a lawsuit alleging racial bias in the blood oxygen sensor of its Apple Watch was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan. The judge’s decision was made with prejudice, meaning the lawsuit cannot be filed again. Judge Rakoff intends to provide a detailed explanation of his ruling by August 31.
The lawsuit was brought forward by Alex Morales, a resident of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, who claimed that he paid an inflated price for his Apple Watch because he believed that its blood oxygen app would accurately measure blood oxygen levels “regardless of skin tone.”
In his amended complaint filed in May, Morales cited decades of reports suggesting that similar pulse oximetry devices were “considerably less accurate” when measuring the blood oxygen levels of individuals with non-white skin tones. Morales argued that the real-world consequences of this bias were not fully addressed until the COVID-19 pandemic shed light on “structural racism” in society.
Apple countered Morales’ claims by asserting that he had failed to provide any allegations supporting his fraud claim or demonstrate that he had been exposed to misleading information before his purchase.
Morales’ legal representative did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Medical professionals have long been aware that pulse oximeters, which assist in assessing potential heart and respiratory issues, tend to be less accurate when estimating blood oxygen levels in non-white patients. The shortcomings of these devices were further highlighted during the pandemic, with some patients experiencing treatment delays or premature discharges from emergency rooms.
The case is identified as Morales v Apple Inc, and it was heard in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York under docket number No. 22-10872.