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Legal Jesus

And on the third day, he blawged again.

The folks over at Consumerist have the great story of a pissed-off lawyer who drop and broke his Kindle 2.0.


The folks over at Consumerist have the great story of a pissed-off ex-lawyer who dropped and broke his Kindle 2.0.  A well written threat coupled with a deadline for an extremely reasonable settlement resulted in the perfect outcome for all parties.

Full letter-threat and response, as well as biographies of the players, after the break.

Paul Gowder
[Address omitted]

August 12, 2009 Inc.
Legal Department
1200 12th Avenue South
Suite 1200
Seattle, WA 98144-2734

Dear Sir or Madam:

On June 21, 2009, I purchased an Kindle 2 e-book reader from the website. I purchased this device based, in substantial part, on the expectation that it would be reasonably durable. In particular, I expected that it would be approximately as durable as is ordinary in the consumer electronics market. advertises the Kindle 2 on the basis of its durability. Notably, displays a “drop test” video on the web page for this product. That video displays the device being dropped twice from thirty inches onto what appears to be tile. That video displays a fall with sufficient force that the device visibly bounces, and deliberately creates the impression that the device will function after impacts similar to that sequence of drops.

Despite those representations, the Kindle 2 is far less durable. On July 26, 2009, I dropped a messenger bag containing the device onto the sidewalk, from approximately two feet above the ground. It was dropped only once, and the messenger bag absorbed enough of the shock that nothing else in the bag, including a Macbook laptop, suffered any damage whatsoever. (Unlike the drop displayed in’s video, for example, nothing actually bounced.) Moreover, there was no visible damage on the exterior of the Kindle 2. Nonetheless, the Kindle 2 became completely unusable, with over 50% of its screen no longer able to display any text.

I called support and was told that, because of the accidental drop, you would not be willing to supply a replacement device under warranty. You did, however, offer to sell a new device at a discount, for $200.00. I took advantage of that offer under protest, and explicitly reserved my rights to bring a claim against you based on the unreasonable fragility of the device and the misrepresentations in your advertising. It is that claim that forms the subject of this letter.

I am prepared to offer an immediate settlement of my claims against for a payment of $400.00. That sum represents the $200.00 replacement fee I paid plus $200.00 to compensate me for the diminution of utility and value of the device as well as of the e-books I have purchased for that device, in light of the fact that the replacement device, too, can be expected to be far more fragile than advertised and prone to destruction under the slightest stress. This offer expires thirty days from your receipt of this letter. If you do not accept this offer, I intend to bring suit either individually, or, if I decide it is warranted, as representative for a class of similarly situated plaintiffs. At that time, I will seek the amount noted above, plus punitive damages under the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act, Cal. Civil Code §1750 et. seq., costs, fees, and such other monetary damages as provided for by law, including without limitation Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §17200 et. seq., the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose, and other relevant law.

Also, you have demanded the return of the broken device as a condition to the unreasonable discounted replacement offer which I accepted under protest. Your agent has informed me that you will charge my credit card for the full price if the broken device is not returned to you. I am considering seeking a protective order placing that device in the custody of the Court pending litigation. However, should I instead return the device, you are hereby notified that it is evidence in the anticipated litigation to which this letter refers. Should you modify, destroy, or resell the broken device, I will ask the Court to treat that as deliberate spoliation of evidence and make adverse inferences as appropriate.

Very truly yours,

Paul Gowder

And here’s Amazon’s quick (and smart) capitulation:

September 1, 2009


Mr. Paul Gowder

Re: Paul Gowder/Kindle 2 – California Consumers Legal Remedies Act

Dear Mr. Gowder:

We received your letter dated August 12, 2009.  We have decided to accept your offer of $400.  Enclosed is a check made payable to you for $400.  The enclosed check represents full and final settlement of all amounts due and owing.

If you have any questions, please contact me.


Kathryn M. Sheehan
Associate General Counsel, Inc.

Lesson learned:  if your settlement offer is less than an hour of associate billable time, you’re likely to win.

Who is Paul Gowder?  He’s a 2000 graduate of HLS who has left the law to pursue a PhD in philosophy.  He’s not a fan of his legal career and urges undergraduates to stay away from law school.

Who is Kathryn M. Sheehan? Before her current role as Associate General Counsel at Amazon (a sweet gig), Ms. Sheehan (UVA JD ’96; Clarkson (NY) MBA ’91) was an associate at Bogle & Gates (2.5 years), Preston Gates (2 year), and Buchalter Nemer (1 year), with a one-year trip on Alaska Airlines as an attorney (likely a secondment, I would think).

She’s paid her dues to get her gig, while Gowder gave up (but got his $400!).

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