Reader Receives $900 For Broken Laptop In Small Claims Court

Ryan in North Dakota bought a very nice HP laptop in 2007. This particular model, he DV6000, has a certain flaw, and HP extended the warranty to cover inevitable repairs. But when the computer broke down for the second time at the tender age of two and a half years, and HP wouldn’t repair it for free, he was angry. He had expected to get at least four years’ use out of the laptop.

So he fought back by filing in small claims court—and won $900, just over 75% of the computer’s original purchase price back in 2007.

I bought a DV6000 laptop from HP in February of 2007. A little after a year of owning it, it died – no boot up at all, just a black screen and a series of beeps.

I called HP to see what they could do. You’ve probably received lots of emails from people with horror stories about this particular model. If you Google “DV6000,” you’ll see hundreds of people with complaints about the shoddy make of this model.

Because of all the problems (and to avoid a recall, I’m sure), HP extended the warranty on several models, including mine, to cover this specific problem. I think it was a motherboard failure – all I know is what the symptoms were. Long story short: HP fixed the laptop for free and were very, very good about it. Quick and easy – I loved HP a lot then.

Flash forward: July of 2009. The computer is a little under two and a half years old. Still a good laptop, what with Vista, a dual core processor, and 2 gigs of RAM, so when it died for a second time, I was dismayed. I spent $1,150 on this laptop expecting to get at least four full years of use out of it. I tend to overspend on computers because I want them to last. In fact, I still have a working laptop I bought in 2000 for $2,000, though it’s so obsolete it’s never used, and a desktop from 2005 still in everyday use. I called HP hoping they’d be as good as the last time the laptop died, especially since the symptoms were exactly the same. No dice.

Moving up the chain of customer service reps, I started at the lower rung. I was told the computer was out of warranty and it would cost around $300 to get it fixed. I questioned this, considering it had already been fixed for the exact same problem once before and back then it was free. Nope, I was told, the warranty is expired.

I asked to speak to a manager, who told me the same thing. I asked for the corporate number and, the next day, called in and spoke to someone at, quote, the “highest level” of customer service in HP. I could go no higher, I was told, after first being told there was nothing they could do: the fix was $300, despite it being the second round of repairs needed.

Well, this torqued me. I don’t like getting ripped off, so the next day, I printed out and mailed in a small claims filing. I considered an EECB, but I was really steamed at the abruptness of the people at HP I talked to. North Dakota small claims are very simple and only cost $10 to file. The crux of my complaint: HP fixed the problem with the computer before, which from my research showed to be something endemic in the hardware of the system itself, a ticking time-bomb the computer shipped with straight off the factory line. By refusing to fix the problem they caused, after having admitted guilt before by repairing it, I was going to be damned if I paid them $300 to fix their own mistake.

The filing took a long time to process and mail because of a mistake I made. Looking up HP’s registered agent in North Dakota (CT Corporation System), I served the papers through registered mail to them. Unfortunately, I put the name of their client, Hewlett Packard, on the envelope. CT Corporation Systems refused to sign, so I had to send the declined envelope back to the Clerk of Court in Burleigh County, where HP’s registered agent has their address. The clerk of court sent me a letter saying I had to serve the papers to CT Corporation Systems instead of Hewlett Packard, meaning all I had to do was change the name on the envelope.

(I didn’t really understand this, since CT is HP’s registered agent and I’m suing HP. Wouldn’t CT sign for something addressed to HP? But whatever… I readdressed the envelope and sent it off.)

Flash forward to this week: I received a call from Francesca from HP, who wanted to talk about the filing. She asked me about the computer and a few general questions. I mentioned my sister was using the laptop when it broke – she’s a teacher and also used the laptop to talk with her husband, who was serving in Iraq when it quit working, leaving her without a computer for a week. We rush-ordered a nice Gateway computer later in the week after HP refused to help us out.

The most memorable part of the conversation involved Francesca mentioning (and I’m paraphrasing here) that, well, the computer is over two years old, you know? The subtext: laptops aren’t going to last forever – why are you going to so much trouble over an old laptop?

My instant reply, which I’m very proud of: “Are you telling me HP’s laptops are so crappy they won’t last more than two years and I should just throw it away?”

That got her attention, and minutes later she offered to settle for 75 percent of the purchase price. I accepted, since that seemed fair – I had gotten use out of it, after all. Francesca even offered to round up to $900 even to cover mailing and filing costs I’d incurred.

She was very professional and polite and a credit to the company. I’m not sure how likely I am to buy another HP computer anytime soon, but the way she handled herself on the phone makes it much more likely. I know people with other HP laptop models that work fine, so I think the trouble associated with the DV6000 line and its brethren is a fluke. Still, HP screwed up by not fixing their own mistakes.

Right now, I’m waiting for the return shipping box Francesca graciously offered to send, as well as the settlement agreement. After I sign the papers, I’ll send in a dismissal notice to the Clerk of Court, ending the matter for good.

Thanks, HP, for finally doing the right thing.

Barely a month ago, Consumerist suggested that an owner of the same exact model laptop file in small claims court, so it’s great to see another reader who used this method with some success.

How To Take Your Case To Small Claims Court
So You Want To Sue The Company That’s Screwing You Over

(Photo: wlodi)