Smartphones and E-cigarette Battery Defects Pose Danger to Consumers
Used in thousands of personal electronic consumer products, lithium batteries power our phones, laptops, and more. Yet, many of these products may catch fire, explode, and cause serious injuries to unsuspecting users.
Every lithium-ion battery-powered device has a theoretical risk of explosion, and though overheating issues occur infrequently, the sustained injuries can be devastating.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there have been hundreds of product recalls for defective lithium-ion battery-operated devices and battery packs since 2002. The recalls primarily note a burn and fire hazard from the products.
Lithium-ion batteries are one of the most common power sources for modern-day electronics; they’re found in everything from smartphones to laptops to cameras to e-cigarettes.
Joe Lyon is a highly-rated Cincinnati Catastrophic Injury and Ohio product liability lawyer representing plaintiffs nationwide in a wide variety of consumer product liability and product defect cases.
In the last 15 years there have been numerous product safety warnings and recalls of lithium rechargeable devices that have burned or exploded in practically every kind of wireless application, including cameras, notebooks, hoverboards, vaporizers, and smartphones.
In the fall of 2016, Samsung recalled Galaxy Note 7 on dozens of reports of the phone exploding. Reports of Apple phones also overheating and causing injuries have startled consumers around the world. Companies like Apple and Samsung use third-party companies to test their phone batteries, but a new report reveals that Samsung tested the exploding battery in-house. Samsung reports the company found no issues with the Galaxy Note 7’s battery when it conducted its own internal testing, which raises questions about all other devices with the same industry certification.
The reports have also alarmed the Federal Aviation Administration, which has issued a strong advisory asking passengers not to use the Samsung Note 7 or even stow it in checked baggage. Airlines around the world hastened to ban in-flight use and charging of the device.
Batteries can overheat, explode or melt when internal electrical components short-circuit, when mechanical problems are triggered after a fall or an accident, or when they are installed incorrectly.
But essentially, all of these failures occur because one portion of the battery gets too hot and can’t cool down quickly enough, creating a chain reaction that generates more and more heat. If a lithium-ion battery cell charges too quickly or a manufacturing error emerges, it can result in a short circuit, and in turn lead to a fire.
Experts say other faults that can cause a short circuit include contamination by tiny fragments of metal during the production process or minute holes in the sealing, which might not become apparent until the battery has been used by the end user.
The U.S. Fire Administration estimated that more than 2.5 million Americans used e-cigs and vaporizers in 2014. As the trend of smokers switching to vaporizers grows, the industry says the number of related accidents will also increase. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Injury Information database has reported 29 house fires and serious injuries caused by exploding e-cigarettes.
Most packaging on E-cig products fails to warn about the fire and explosion hazards, and consumers never realize the potential risk. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CPSC are both aware of the battery defects, but neither agency currently regulates these new devices.
The U.S. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported 15 separate e-cigarette fire incidents in 2015. Unlike smartphones and other electronics, e-cigarettes are currently an unregulated product, so the total injuries caused may be grossly underestimated. The report noted that the shape and construction of e-cigarettes can make them likely to behave like “flaming rockets” when a lithium battery malfunctions.
Burn centers are reported many third-degree burns requiring skin grafts and significant pain and scarring.
Physicians at trauma and burn units across the country are seeing an increase of e-cig-related injuries. The flame burn and tissue blast injuries are likely to affect the mouth, face, hands, and sometimes cause loss of eyesight.
If you have been injured by a fire or explosion involving a smartphone, e-cig or other lithium battery-powered device, and suspect it may have been due at least in part to a defect with the product, it is critical to preserve the evidence and all parts of battery defects. Take photos at the scene of the incident and contact a product liability lawyer as soon as possible.
An experienced product liability lawyer can assist in evaluating the root cause of the failure. To build a compelling case, there must be evidence that the design of the electronic device was defective, a manufacturing defect existed, or the manufacturer was negligent in the manner in which the device was tested or sold.
The Lyon Firm works with design engineers and battery experts to determine the root cause of the failure to trace the defect back to a design or manufacturing source.
Compensation may be awarded for incurred and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, as well as punitive damages against a manufacturer for conscious disregard for the safety of consumers.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury due to a defective lithium battery or device, and have questions about the legal remedies available to improve quality of life and medical care in Ohio, contact The Lyon Firm (800) 513-2403. You will speak directly with Mr. Lyon, and he will help you answer these critical questions.