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Hauck v. Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

May 13, 20201, Submitted, San Francisco, California; May 15, 2020, Filed

No. 19-16124

Opinion

MEMORANDUM3

Plaintiffs-Appellants, each of whom had purchased a computer processor manufactured by Defendant-Appellee Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. ("AMD") or a device containing [*2]  such a processor, filed this putative class action alleging various state law claims arising out of alleged defects in those AMD processors.4

Like all major computer processor manufacturers, AMD employs branch prediction, speculative execution, and caches in its processors' microarchitecture. Plaintiffs' operative second amended complaint alleges that AMD processors are defective because their reliance on these features renders the processors vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks in which attackers (1) artificially induce mis-speculation to influence what metadata a processor stores, and then (2) launch side-channel attacks to deduce users' underlying sensitive information from that metadata. Plaintiffs allege that this vulnerability was publicized to consumers in January 2018, and Plaintiffs acknowledge that the type of attack the processors were vulnerable to was commonly referred to as a Spectre attack. Plaintiffs do not allege that any such attack has successfully compromised their data or any other consumer's data. Instead, their claims are premised on allegations that they would not have purchased their devices or would have paid less for them if they had known about the defect, [*3]  and on allegations that the defect prompted them to install third-party patches that then caused their processors' performance to worsen.

The district court granted AMD's motion to dismiss the claims in Plaintiffs' second amended complaint that the parties had identified as bellwether claims, entered a partial final judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), and certified this matter for immediate appeal. Plaintiffs timely appealed. Reviewing de novo, see Davidson v. Kimberly-Clark Corp., 889 F.3d 956, 963 (9th Cir. 2018), we affirm.

1. Plaintiffs have adequately alleged Article III standing as to their claims for damages. Plaintiffs' allegations that their devices degraded in performance after they installed third-party patches to attempt to mitigate their processors' vulnerability to the alleged defect are sufficient to establish an injury in fact that is "concrete and particularized" and "actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical." Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Envtl. Servs. (TOC), Inc., 528 U.S. 167, 180, 120 S. Ct. 693, 145 L. Ed. 2d 610 (2000). That injury is "fairly traceable" to the design of AMD processors. Id. Although it is possible, as AMD suggests, that the age of Plaintiffs' computers or other issues with the third-party patches were partially responsible for the performance losses, Plaintiffs allege an adequate causal connection between their learning about [*4]  the vulnerabilities resulting from the microarchitecture of AMD's processors and their alleged injury to establish standing at this juncture. See Mendia v. Garcia, 768 F.3d 1009, 1014-15 (9th Cir. 2014). Finally, Plaintiffs' claimed injury, if proven, would be redressable through damages. See Jewel v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, 673 F.3d 902, 908, 912 (9th Cir. 2011).

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2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 15598 *

DIANA HAUCK, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. ADVANCED MICRO DEVICES, INC., Defendant-Appellee.

Notice: PLEASE REFER TO FEDERAL RULES OF APPELLATE PROCEDURE RULE 32.1 GOVERNING THE CITATION TO UNPUBLISHED OPINIONS.

Prior History:  [*1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. D.C. Nos. 5:18-cv-00447-LHK, 5:18-cv-00744-LHK, 5:18-cv-00883-LHK. Lucy H. Koh, District Judge, Presiding.

Hauck v. Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58618 (N.D. Cal., Apr. 4, 2019)

Disposition: AFFIRMED.

CORE TERMS

processors, vulnerability, properly dismiss, allegations, consumers, omission, second amended complaint, attacks

Antitrust & Trade Law, Consumer Protection, Deceptive & Unfair Trade Practices