Small claims judge rules against Facebook in Oculus headset case, orders tech company to pay plaintiff's legal fees

Small claims judge rules against Facebook in Oculus headset case, orders tech company to pay plaintiff’s legal fees

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ALAMO, Calif. (KGO) — A judge has made her ruling in an unusual battle between an East Bay father and tech giant Facebook, all over a defective virtual reality headset sold by Facebook’s Oculus VR.

The judge asked if it was reasonable that a dad should have to sue just to get the company to respond — then ordered the social media powerhouse to pay his court costs.

The ordeal began last summer when Bobby Redman’s Oculus VR headset broke down.

“It works, but for some reason, it shut off randomly,” said Bobby.

“It just went completely blank. It wouldn’t boot up at all,” said Bobby’s father, Mark Redman.

It was pure frustration. At first, Redman thought it would be simple to get a new device, because it was still under warranty. But months later, Oculus couldn’t fix it and wouldn’t refund his money. Finally, Redman hauled the big-time company before a small claims judge.

RELATED: Oculus gifts boy replacement VR headset as father, son wait for small claims ruling against Facebook

It all concluded two weeks ago when Bobby and Mark squared off against mighty Facebook in small claims court.

“The judge grilled them about everything they put me through,” Redman said. “Her eyes opened up wide when she saw my documentation.”

Redman says he tried for months to get a replacement for the defective unit.

“They said they were out of stock. I said, ‘I want my money back.’ They said, ‘No, we’re not gonna do that, we’ll give you some extra credits,'” Redman explained.

He complained to the Better Business Bureau, but Oculus never responded. Months later, he filed the small claims lawsuit.

“It’s not about the money, it’s the principle,” Redman said. “Large companies shouldn’t treat customers this way.”

Redman spent hundreds of dollars trying to find where to serve court papers. He claimed Oculus deliberately used an outdated address to avoid a lawsuit. He wanted punitive damages.

Facebook sent high-powered attorneys Orrick Herrington and Sutcliffe to fight his claim. The lawyers drafted a 26-page rebuttal with six exhibits, telling Redman, “Any reasonable consumer would know to sue Facebook, not Oculus,” and that his case had no merit.

RELATED: Facebook pulls out big guns to fight Bay Area father’s small claim suit on faulty VR headset

Negotiations went on for weeks — all over a broken toy.

“They’re billing the company probably $500 an hour… so there’s no telling how much money Facebook spent defending themselves over a couple of hundred dollars in a small claims action,” Redman said. “And they should realize you can’t just push a little bitty guy around with a big huge law firm, I’m not gonna stand for that.”

At the trial, Redman showed the judge a binder of 377 documents — all it took to try to get Oculus to honor the warranty. Redman explained what documents were inside the binder.

“My emails to Oculus, Bobby’s emails to Oculus, my emails to the attorney, the attorney’s responses,” Redman said.

The Contra Costa County small claims judge, Judge Gina Dashman, asked Facebook’s representative if that seemed acceptable.

“Do you think it was reasonable for somebody to go through all that Mr. Redman described?” asked Dashman. “Do you think it’s reasonable for a customer to go through that process? Is it reasonable… just to get a working product?”

RELATED: San Francisco-based small claims assistance services offer easy filing; are they worth the cost?

Facebook representative Jeannie Ferrin, director of case management, agreed that the process was too long.

“I would agree it took too long to make him whole… there were a couple mitigating factors, there was a shortage, there was COVID… I would have liked to see it move faster,” Ferrin said.

This week the verdict came. The judge ordered Facebook to reimburse Redman $767 for his court costs — but just $1 in damages.

Facebook also gave Bobby a new Oculus headset right there in court, plus an apology.

“It was just a good day in court,” Redman said. “Bobby told me he was proud of me and that made every bit of it worth it.”

Redman’s on a new mission now. He wants to help other parents who posted complaints online about Oculus headsets. He’s created a YouYube video on how to file a small claims case.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

Have a question for Michael and the 7 On Your Side team? Fill out the form HERE! 7OYS’s consumer hotline is a free consumer mediation service for those in the San Francisco Bay Area. We assist individuals with consumer-related issues; we cannot assist on cases between businesses, or cases involving family law, criminal matters, landlord/tenant disputes, labor issues, or medical issues. Please review our FAQ here. As a part of our process in assisting you, it is necessary that we contact the company / agency you are writing about. If you do not wish us to contact them, please let us know right away, as it will affect our ability to work on your case. Due to the high volume of emails we receive, please allow 3-5 business days for a response.

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