Exploding Lithium-Ion Battery Lawsuits
If you or a loved one have suffered injuries from a lithium-ion battery exploding or catching fire, contact the experienced burn lawyers at Chaffin Luhana LLP.
The lithium-ion battery is one of the most common types of rechargeable batteries on the market today. With the popularity of smartphones, mini-music players, e-cigarettes, tablets, and more, these high-energy batteries have exploded onto the market, both figuratively and literally.
As consumers demanded smaller gadgets, batteries had to fit into increasingly smaller spaces. Over time, that created problems.
These problems drew worldwide attention in 2016, with reports of exploding Samsung Galaxy 7 smartphones popping up just about every week.
Airlines soon banned the phone from flights, and people were worried the devices would erupt into flames without notice. Samsung recalled certain Galaxy 7s in September 2016.
Meanwhile, reports of hoverboards, e-cigarettes, headphones, laptops, and more catching fire have flooded the media over the past few years.
Batteries for these products do carry some risks, but manufacturers are well aware of these risks, and can take steps to minimize them in design and production. When manufacturers take shortcuts instead, disasters may occur.
If you or a loved one was seriously injured because of a lithium-ion battery explosion, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit to recover damages.
Recent Lithium-Ion Battery Recalls
On March 13, 2018, a recall was issued for multiple models of the AmazonBasics portable chargers/power banks (approximately 260,000 units). These chargers contain lithium-ion batteries which can overheat and possibly catch fire, resulting in property damage and burns.
These power bank models include:
- 16,100 mAh
- 10,000 mAh
- 5,600 mAh
- 3,000 mAh and 3,000 mAh with USB micro cable
- 2,000 mAh with micro USB cable
Product numbers included in this recall:
On January 4, 2018, HP recalled approximately 50,000 lithium-ion batteries that were shipped with and sold separately for various laptop models. These models include:
- HP ProBooks (64x G2 and G3 series, 65x G2 and G3 series)
- HPx360 310 G2
- HP Envy m6
- HP Pavilion x360
- HP 11
- HP ZBook (17 G3, 17 G4, Studio G3, and Studio G4) Mobile Workstations
These batteries can overheat, potentially catch fire/explode, and result in property damage and/or severe burns.
What is a Lithium-Ion Battery?
A lithium-ion battery contains lithium ions that move from the negative to the positive electrode to generate power, and back again when recharging.
Lithium is a soft, silvery alkali metal that has many uses. It’s made into alloys with aluminum and magnesium, and employed in a number of industries, including aircraft and transportation.
It’s also used to make special types of glass and glass ceramics, and as lithium bromide in air conditioning and industrial drying systems. In the medical industry, lithium carbonate is used to treat manic depression.
Lithium is one of the lightest elements in the periodic table, and has one of the largest electrochemical potentials, which is why it makes a good metal for use in batteries. It can produce a lot of power in small volumes.
The first lithium-ion battery was invented in 1980, and in 1991, Sony Corporation was the first to manufacture and sell its version of battery, which was an improvement over previous development efforts.
Soon it became clear that these batteries could operate many various products because of the immense power generated from a small cell.
Toys, e-cigarettes, medical devices, portable electric tools, e-bikes, computers, tablets, and many more products were developed with these batteries.
But, as manufacturers continued to make improvements that allowed the batteries to produce more power, they also had to deal with the fact that they were becoming more reactive.
Why Do Lithium-Ion Batteries Fail, Explode, and Catch Fire?
Though most lithium-ion batteries work fine, some over the past several years have caused explosions and fires that have resulted in property damage and personal injuries, including serious burns.
Particularly since the early 2000s, there has been a steady flow of warnings and product recalls tied to burning and exploding lithium-ion batteries.
Some e-cigarettes, hoverboards, smartphones, cameras, and laptops have all been affected by these issues. In fact, the batteries have gained such a reputation for being potentially volatile that in 2016, the International Civil Aviation Organization banned the shipment of lithium-ion batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft.
Yet, lithium-ion batteries are ubiquitous on the market, and could be said to power our current mobile world. Most of them are working well. However, when they do malfunction, it’s usually because of one of two reasons:
The manufacturer failed to implement the appropriate safeguards, or
The manufacturer made mistakes when integrating the battery into its products.
Many of the product problems and recalls are caused by deficiencies in one of these two areas.
Li-Ion Battery Manufacturing Shortcuts Result in Consumer Injuries
To operate correctly, lithium-ion batteries require a number of safety features that help prevent overheating. If manufacturers fail to employ these safety features, they increase the risk of consumer injury.
As technology advances, products require more power, batteries must fit into smaller places, and manufacturers must find more economical ways to produce their materials.
In some cases, this can lead to shortcuts that sacrifice safety. Cheap knock-off hoverboards have frequently ended up in the news for causing fires.
Inside a lithium-ion battery is what is called a “separator”—a thin piece of polypropylene between the electrodes that keeps them from touching together.
If something goes wrong with the separator, the electrodes come into contact with each other, which results in overheating.
As batteries are required to produce more power, designers have thinned out these separators to allow more room for reactive material—increasing the risk of short-circuiting if other precautions are not taken.
Some experts have blamed Samsung’s explosion problems on flawed separators.
Recharging the battery too quickly can also cause a short circuit that could lead to an explosion. Manufacturers, therefore, need to be sure the chargers they’re selling packaged with their products provide a safe level of charge.
They must also warn consumers to use only the chargers that come with their products, rather than purchasing other, cheaper chargers that may be poorly made, and may create an accelerated recharge.
A production or manufacturing flaw, a lack of proper insulation, inadequate ventilation, and more can all create a dangerous battery. In addition, lithium-ion batteries are filled with a flammable substance that can explode when it gets too hot. And that substance is also mixed with a skin-burning compound. This design makes poorly designed lithium batteries potentially very dangerous.
The other issue is that once overheating is present, it tends to snowball. The flammable substance inside creates a “thermal runaway” situation that is difficult to stop.
Common Lithium-Ion Battery Questions
Some Products Associated with Exploding Lithium-Ion Batteries
Many of the product problems and recalls are caused by deficiencies in one of these two areas.
Cellphones / Smartphones
Samsung recalled 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7 smartphones because of exploding batteries in September 2016. In one instance, a woman was holding the device in her hand when it started pouring out smoke. A man filed a lawsuit against the company after a phone exploded in his pocket, burning his leg.
Laptops / Notebooks
Sony recalled 9.6 million computer batteries in 2006 because of explosion risks. The company noted that faulty manufacturing had resulted in tiny shards of metal contaminating the inside of the batteries. About half of the batteries went into Dell computers. In January 2017, HP recalled about 100,000 lithium-ion batteries used in their laptops because of fire and burn hazards. And in February 2017, NBC News reported on yet another Dell computer exploding while it was charging.
Consumers have reported these devices exploding during use and even when not in use. An Alabama man, for example, sat down to eat breakfast at a friend’s house when his e-cigarette device suddenly exploded in his pocket.
The device welded to his leg, causing second-and third-degree burns. Because these devices are cylindrical, pressure can build up quickly inside them, and those that explode can become projectiles.
In January 2016, ten companies recalled about 500,000 self-balancing hoverboards/scooters because of fire hazards. All were manufactured in China. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) noted that at least 99 incident reports of the batteries exploding had been received, with reports of burn injuries and property damage. In a tragic hoverboard explosion-related fire in Harrisburg, PA, two young girls were killed. Other recalls followed in 2017.
In 2017, a woman flying to Melbourne from Beijing fell asleep while wearing noise-canceling headphones. She woke to sounds of an explosion and found that the battery in the headphones had burst into flames. She suffered from serious burns on her face and hair.
iPhone Lithium-Ion Battery Issues
The Apple iPhone has also experienced lithium-ion battery issues, but so far, there have not been reports of explosions. Instead, because of expected battery degradation over time, the company created an update that automatically slowed down older iPhones.
The update was uploaded automatically into consumers’ phones without their knowledge, after which the devices would operate more slowly in times of high-power requirements.
Many confused customers felt they had to buy a new phone because of the slow-down, when they could have simply bought a new battery.
Apple admitted to keeping their customers in the dark, and apologized. They explained that over time, lithium-ion batteries become less capable of handling performance peaks, during which they could suddenly shut down.
They issued the update to prevent these shutdowns, but failed to warn consumers about what they were doing, preventing them from choosing more economical solutions. The company now faces a number of lithium-ion battery lawsuits because of the slow-down issue.
Other products powered by these batteries have been associated with overheating and explosions. The batteries have been blamed, for example, for at least two fires in Tesla’s electric cars.
Types of Injuries Associated with Lithium-Ion Batteries
An exploding or burning battery can cause all kinds of property damage. It can also cause serious injuries to the person using the product, to those standing nearby, and to those in the vicinity of any resulting fire. Such injuries include:
- Serious burns
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Hearing and vision loss
- Loss of teeth and/or tongue
- Burned throat and esophagus
- Lasting disability
What Should I Do if My Battery Catches Fire?
First of all, be aware of the warning signs. If your battery starts to feel extremely hot, or the device swells or develops a bulge, realize that your battery may be malfunctioning. If it starts hissing or making other noises, a reaction could already be starting.
At this point, it’s important not to touch the unit with your bare hands, as you could suffer from harmful chemical burns. Use a pair or tongs, leather gloves, flame-retardant gloves, or even an oven mitt (anything but bare hands) to unplug the unit and turn it off. Being wary not to jostle it, put it in an isolated area away from anything flammable—an empty metal box, on clear concrete, or on a stone surface is best. Then contact your dealer for directions on how to proceed.
If you notice that your gadget (phone, laptop, e-cigarette, etc.) is smoking;
- Quickly clear the surrounding area of anything else that may catch fire,
- Unplug and turn off the unit as noted above, and
- Then get it to a non-flammable surface and stay away from it.
- Once it calms down, contact your dealer for instructions. Be wary of handling it as it could still be vulnerable to a reaction.
If the device catches fire, call your fire department immediately. They respond to situations like this so there is no reason to hesitate. At that point, the best thing you can do is get the gadget to a safe place and let it burn out. (Most household fire extinguishers are not designed for this type of chemical fire.) Again, look for a non-flammable surface like a sidewalk or concrete driveway, outside, preferably.
Let the fire burn out and caution everyone to stand clear. Realize that even after the fire burns out the device could still explode. Keep your distance and wear protective eye wear. Understand that the device may re-ignite even after 10 minutes, so do not take it back inside.
If you notice gas or flames, cover your mouth and nose, or simply get away from the device. These fires create toxic fumes that you do not want to breathe, so make sure to instruct other people to clear the area, and get your pets away, too. Pregnant women especially should get clear of the fumes, and Moms need to take any small children completely out of the house or building.
I Was Burned by a Lithium-Ion Battery, What Do I Do?
If your battery blew up and you were burned in the incident, take the following two steps immediately.
Do I Have a Case?
You may wonder if the lithium-ion battery fire or explosion was your fault, somehow. Did you do something wrong when using it or charging it? Did you ask too much of the power supply? Did you store it incorrectly?
Companies are responsible for making sure their products are safe for you to use. If something went wrong, it could be that the company was at fault, but how can you know for sure?
Your best option is to contact a lithium-ion fire attorney for a free consultation. He or she can examine the facts of your case, and help you determine if it would be worthwhile to pursue a lawsuit in court.
Meanwhile, ask yourself the following questions:
- Were you hurt seriously enough to have to go to the doctor’s office or the hospital?
- Did you have to go through surgery or another similar medical procedure as treatment?
- Did you suffer from significant property damage?
- Were you using the gadget normally when the lithium-ion explosion or fire occurred?
- Did the incident involve other people or property belonging to other individuals?
- Was a child hurt by the incident?
If you answered “yes” to even one of these questions, you may be eligible to file a lithium-ion battery burn lawsuit and should contact an experienced lithium-ion battery burn lawyer immediately.
What is My Case Worth?
If you’re considering filing a lithium-ion battery fire lawsuit, you may wonder if it’s worth it. Will you receive enough in compensation to cover your losses? Will the time and energy involved produce the returns you’re hoping for?
These questions can be difficult to answer before a thorough legal investigation into the case. An experienced lithium-ion battery explosion lawyer will look at all the evidence you have, and will do an additional investigation into the gadget you were using and the particular battery associated with that gadget. It could be that the manufacturers received reports of other incidences similar to yours, and failed to respond adequately to protect public safety.
Your losses also need to be calculated, and these usually include not only your medical expenses, but your property damage, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any future medical care you may need. If you lost someone close to you in the accident (loss of consortium), that’s another factor that can increase the complexity of a case.
Your lithium-ion battery fire attorney must also determine what the defendants are claiming, and what evidence they may have supporting their position. It takes time to get all the facts together, but after a thorough investigation, your lawyer will be able to provide you with more information.
How Much Will My Case Cost?
As a plaintiff in a lithium-ion battery burn lawsuit working with Chaffin Luhana, you will not owe any money up front. We work on contingency, which means that we don’t recover money unless you do. If you are awarded compensation in a settlement agreement or in an actual trial, your lithium-ion battery fire attorney will get a percentage of that award to pay for attorney’s costs.
When you go for your initial free consultation with a lithium-ion battery burn lawyer, he or she will help explain the percentages so you can understand exactly how much of any legal award you may receive.
Important Lithium-Ion Battery Regulations
There are a number of regulations in place concerning lithium-ion batteries to help protect public safety. These can be helpful in case of a lithium-ion battery explosion lawsuit, as they make it clear that the manufacturer is responsible for creating a safe product.
Each battery must have a “battery management system,” for example, that ensures it does not overheat. These types of systems should balance the cells in the battery, make sure the current stays under safe limits, and that the battery stays within its ideal operational voltage.
Each battery must also pass a number of tests to ensure that it’s safe to ship both domestically and internationally, and that it can withstand typical shipping conditions, like high altitudes and temperature variations.
One regulation was put into place specifically to make sure that lithium-ion batteries are safely designed. The batteries must pass tests ensuring that they can withstand vibration, heating, impacts, and even crushing without reacting dangerously. The tests are also meant to ensure the devices don’t short-circuit or charge abnormally.
It’s clear from these regulations that by the time a lithium-ion battery arrives on the market, it should have passed a number of safety tests to ensure that it won’t react in an unsafe manner during regular use or transport. Those batteries that still catch on fire or explode are therefore highly suspect of being defective batteries.
File a Lithium-Ion Battery Lawsuit
The number of lawsuits concerning lithium-ion batteries continues to increase. If you or a loved one were injured when using a product powered by a defective lithium-ion battery, you may be eligible to file a lithium-ion battery lawsuit. Contact us today for your free case evaluation.