Nintendo Scores A Death Blow To Joy-Con Drift Lawsuit Using Fine Print As Its Weapon
A federal judge for the Northern District of California has dismissed an amended complaint against Nintendo of America alleging that a Joy-Con drift issue has grown worse over time, to the point where Switch "consoles became unusable." The dismissal doesn't mean the drift issue doesn't exist, and instead the judge basically says their hands are tied because of a section in the End User License Agreement (EULA).
Turns out that the fine print outlined in a EULA does actually matter, even though most of us blast right through what is often pages of boring legalese en route to the "Accept" button. In this case, part of what it all boils down to is a section containing "arbitration and forum-selection clauses."
What this means is disputes like the one over claims of a drift issue must enter into legal arbitration rather than go to court, because that's what buyers agree to during setup by way of the EULA. What's especially interesting in this instance, though, is that the now-dismissed lawsuit argued that minors were not bound by the EULA because, well, they're minors.
The crux of the argument is that parents purchased Switch consoles with allegedly faulty Joy-Con controllers for their kids, and being minors, the gift recipients couldn't legally agree to any terms in a EULA.
An arbitration panel disagreed with that assessment saying the minors were never parties to the EULA, so the parents who took up the issue abandoned arbitration and filed a lawsuit. It didn't go the way they hoped.
"Minors are estopped from asserting they have standing on the basis that they received the consoles as a gift from their parents and, thereby, became de facto owners of the consoles who disaffirmed the EULA. Plaintiffs already presented these arguments to the arbitration panel which considered and rejected them, so they cannot relitigate these issues," the judge wrote in their decision.
The judge essentially agreed that "there was never any agreement between Nintendo and minors," and further "finds the amendment futile and subject to dismissal." Put another way, the EULA binds the parents who purchased the Switch consoles to the terms it lays out, and those terms require issues like this to be resolved in arbitration. Gifting the console to a minor is not a sufficient end-around to the EULA, according to the judgement.
That's not going to sit well with anyone who has experienced a drift issue with their Switch console. Interestingly, Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa had previously issued an apology for the issue rather than denying that it exists. And more recently, a major study concluded that the Joy-Con drift issue is a design flaw.
None of it matters because to paraphrase the judgement (PDF), EULAs are the ultimate weapons in these boss battles.