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 injury 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 Catastrophic Injury and 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, vaping injuries, 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 portable chargers 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.
Many product liability cases have had a positive impact on public health and safety, and we have witnessed improved lives and future injuries prevented as companies are forced to remove products and change designs and warnings as a result of litigation.
Product liability lawsuits often contain causes of action for strict liability, negligence, and breach of warranty. Strict liability applies to different factors than negligence-based claims.
In negligence cases, the actions of the defendant are the focus. In strict liability claims, the focus is on the condition of a product at the time it left the manufacturer. If a product is determined to be defective, the company is liable for any foreseeable injuries that are in-part caused by the defective condition of the product.
A product is defective if it is unreasonably dangerous for its intended use. A legal cause of action can be based on several types of product defects. The following are Cincinnati product liability and strict liability claims available in Ohio and in most jurisdictions nationwide:
(1) Manufacturing/ Construction Defect:
These issues arise where the product is released from the factory in a manner that deviates from the intended design or specifications. The defect can be a result of using the wrong materials, including the wrong or completely foreign materials (e.g., Tylenol contamination, food poisoning, damaged car part from factory installation).
As a result of the deviation, the product enters the market in an unreasonably dangerous condition and the consumer is exposed to or purchases a product that is defective. Any personal injuries or economic loss that arise from the the defect are compensable under Ohio product liability law.
(2) Defective design and/or formulation:
Defective design product liability cases arise not because a mistake was made during the manufacturing process, but rather the original design of the product is unreasonably dangerous. A “risk benefit analysis” is used to determine whether safer/less expensive alternative designs were available to the manufacturer.
Federal regulations set minimum standards for the design of many consumer products, and preemption defenses may preclude liability in some situations if the manufacturer follows and obtains federal approval for a product. Automotive recalls and product liability cases are usually a result of a defective design. Common cases include the Toyota Brake Recall, Chrysler Gen III seat belt buckle, lap belt only cases, Metal on Metal hip implants, transvaginal mesh.)
(3) Failure to warn or inadequate warning or instruction associated with the product:
All consumer products come with necessary and appropriate warnings and instructions for use. If the lack of a warning makes the product and use of the product unsafe, the manufacturer is liable for the failure to place the warning. The most common area of litigation for failure to warn is in pharmaceutical litigation.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers are required to warn of the known or foreseeable side effects and update the warnings in a timely manner. Litigation arises where there is evidence the manufacturer failed to timely update a warning in light of new data or simply ignored the risk and failed to conduct sufficient research to identify and then disclose the risk.
The product fails to conform to a representation or warranty. Warranty claims are more common in commercial and economic loss cases than in personal injury cases. In many States, The Product Liability Act does not apply to cases with only economic loss, because the Commercial Code provides recourse for breach of warranty.
The warranty may be written or implied based upon the products intended purpose and merchantability. An example of a breach of warranty cases are cases involving automotive defects.
Risks: The following factors are considered under Ohio law when determining the risks associated with the design of a product: (1) the magnitude of the risk of injury; (2) ordinary consumer awareness of the risk for injury; (3) the likelihood of causing injury; (4) the violation of a private or public standard; and (5) the consumer’s expectation of the performance of the product and level of danger. Ohio Revised Code 2307.5 (B) Product Defective in Design or Formulation.
Benefits: The following factors are considered under Ohio law when determining the benefits associated with product design: (1) the utility of the product; (2) availability of an alternative design; (3) the magnitude of risks associated with an alternative design. Ohio Revised Code 2307.5 (c)
Defenses for Defective Design: (1) a pharmaceutical drug or medical device is not defective by design if it contains an adequate warning of an unavoidably unsafe aspect of the pharmaceutical or medical device; (2) the dangerous aspect is inherent to the product, recognizable, and cannot be eliminated without compromising the product’s usefulness; (3) a lack of a feasible alternative design. 2307.75 (d)(e)(f).
A manufacturing defect is based on a defect that occurred during the manufacturing process. Many auto companies have been involved in this kind of product liability lawsuits in recent years, due to defective airbags, software defects, tire failure, and other dangerous manufacturing errors.
Most manufacturing defect cases are based on a products deviation from the intended specification, formula, performance standards, or design model. In such cases, it may be easy to determine the product did not comply with the intended design.
The product may be recalled as a specific lot is identified as being non-compliant and defective. A product may be defective in manufacture or construction, materials and assembly, and a manufacturer or distributor may be subject to strict liability, even though it exercised all possible care. Ohio Revised Code 2307.74.
Manufacturing Defect Examples:
In determining whether a product is defective due to inadequate warning or instruction, evidence must be presented to prove:
Defenses to Failure to Warn Claims: (1) the risk was open and obvious or a matter of common knowledge; and (2) in cases of a pharmaceutical drug or medical device, the warning was provided to the prescribing physician (“Learned Intermediary Doctrine”).
Many pharmaceutical companies have been targeted in failure to warn lawsuits for either failing to place warnings on medication guides and packaging or failing to properly test their product before putting it to market.
Design and manufacturing defects result in thousands of product recalls each year in the United States, initiated by federal safety agencies. Following injury and illness, regardless of recall status, victims and plaintiffs may pursue legal action and contact a product liability lawyer to begin the litigation process. Rightful compensation can be sought and help plaintiffs recover medical costs and other related damages.
Product liability law overlaps with regulatory law, which are the systems of legislative rules and administrative agencies, and part of federal and state governments. These agencies regulate the safety of the products sold to the public. Examples include:
The listed government agencies, however, may initiate recalls of dangerous products but do not provide remedies or compensation for damages where an individual is injured due to the defective product.
Our Firm will help you find the answers. The Firm has the experience, resources and dedication to take on difficult and emotional cases and help our clients obtain the justice for the wrong they have suffered.
Experience: Joe Lyon is an experienced Cincinnati Product Liability Lawyer. The Lyon Firm has 17 years of experience and success representing individuals and plaintiffs in all fifty states, and in a variety of complex civil litigation matters. Product Liability lawsuits can be complex and require industry experts to determine the root cause of an accident or injury. Mr. Lyon has worked with experts nationwide to assist individuals understand why an injury occurred and what can be done to improve their lives in the future. Some cases may go to a jury trial, though many others can be settled out of court.
Resources/Dedication: Mr. Lyon has worked with experts in the fields of accident reconstruction, biomechanics, epidemiology, metallurgy, pharmacology, toxicology, human factors, workplace safety, life care planning, economics, and virtually every medical discipline in successfully representing Plaintiffs across numerous areas of law. The Lyon Firm is dedicated to building the strongest cases possible for clients and their critical interests.
Results: Mr. Lyon has obtained numerous seven and six figure results in personal injury.
Defective products on the market present safety and health hazards for adults and children. Cheap and defective products may pose fire and burn risks; electrocution, strangulation and choking risks; and severe health risks. The manufacturers of consumer products have a duty to foresee potential injury and properly design and test products before they are released.
Companies must also properly warn consumers of any risks associated with their products. Any failure to protect consumers that results in accidents and injury can lead to lawsuits filed by plaintiffs and their product liability lawyer.
The Lyon Firm aggressively, professionally, and passionately advocates for injured individuals and families against companies due to a defective product or recalled product to obtain just compensation under the law.
(Pikeville, Kentucky): Confidential settlement for Plaintiff who suffered spinal cord injury resulting in paraplegia due to defectively designed seat belt. Four passengers with three-point (lap/shoulder) belts walked away from the accident, and the only passenger wearing a two-point belt (lap only) suffered a debilitating spinal cord injury. The settlement assisted with home improvements to assist in daily living. GM entered federal bankruptcy during the process and no longer manufactures two-point lap belts for vehicles.
(Hillsboro, Ohio): Confidential Settlement for the family of elderly man who was catastrophically burned while operating a propane wall heater. The burns resulted in his unfortunate death. The heater, manufactured and sourced from China, was alleged to allow the flame to reach outside the grid area in violation of ANSI standards. The Defendant resolved the case following discovery and mediation. The recovered funds were paid to the victim’s surviving spouse and children. The company no longer manufactures this type of heater.