Nintendo Switch Joy-Con drift claim will be arbitrated

Nintendo moved the case to federal court last month.

Image via Nintendo

Nintendo Switch buyers faced a problem with the Joy-Con drifting when the console was released. A Switch owner made a legal claim that Nintendo of America has sold “defective” controllers with its consoles, and yesterday, an Illinois federal court decided it must go to arbitration.

Arbitration is a way to resolve disputes outside of the courts, a method of dispute settlement using private entities known as arbitral tribunals. The decision was made by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, presiding over the case of Zachary Vergara.

Vergara claims the Joy-Con controllers have a defect that “causes the joystick to activate or drift on its own without the user actually manipulating the joystick.” The lawsuit includes claims for “violations of consumer protection laws, breach of warranty and unjust enrichment” and he’s seeking unspecified damages, as well as his attorney and legal costs.

U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman said Vergara must ask an arbitrator if his alleged claims belong in court or if they’re actually subject to an arbitration clause in an end-user agreement that Vergara agreed to when he first purchased the Switch.

The case against Nintendo was opened last August. A month later, Nintendo moved the case to federal court. The company said Vergara willingly signed an end-user license agreement and it requires him to arbitrate claims related to its Switch console and its associated control devices. Vergara responded that his case was an exception, which exempts claims “that may be brought in small-claims court.”

“By entering into an arbitration agreement that incorporates the AAA Rules, the parties delegated to the arbitrator the question whether Vergara’s claims must be arbitrated,” Judge Feinerman said.

The ruling on this matter means that Nintendo has won this round, but the judge added that Vergara is free to come back to court if the designated arbitrator decides the claims aren’t subject to the arbitration process.

A similar situation happened in March when a Washington federal judge gave the same ruling in a case focused on defective Joy-Con controllers. U.S. District Judge Thomas S. Zilly granted Nintendo’s bid for arbitration in that case but refused to dismiss the case outright and instead put a hold on Ryan Diaz’s class-action suit, pending the results of the arbitration process.

The Joy-Con controllers have been in the spotlight for drifting issues. Last December, the Nintendo Switch was named the most fragile product of 2019 by the French consumers’ association. Drifting issues led the association to label Nintendo as one of the worst companies of the year in France.