Exploding Lithium-Ion Batteries Remain A Top Product Liability Lawsuit in 2019

Exploding lithium-ion batteries are still a source for product recalls, injuries, and product liability

lawsuits. Unlike the alkaline batteries we’re used to for powering children’s toys and flashlights, newer high-powered lithium-ion batteries that charge our cell phones, laptops, tablets, and other expensive electronics can pose tremendous hazards. Last year, lithium-ion batteries allegedly caused at least 17 airplane fires, which has shed the spotlight on this growing concern. Chaffin Luhana has pursued claims on behalf of people injured by defective and inherently dangerous batteries to secure compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

The Curious Case of Exploding Lithium Ion Batteries

There have been numerous cases right here in Pittsburgh, PA of exploding lithium ion batteries:

  • On December 31st, 2014, a Model S Tesla allegedly caught fire on the way home from the dealership. While Tesla initially offered to replace the vehicle, they later rescinded when company investigators claimed to have found a bullet in the rear battery pack. Dissatisfied with the company’s insinuations, Schneider filed a lawsuit and won an undisclosed settlement. According to CNN, Tesla reports they have had 40 fires out of 300,000 Teslas on the road. Gasoline-powered vehicles are 11 times more likely to catch fire than their electric cars, they contend, though engineers say hasty battery assembly puts consumers at risk. So far, all fires have occurred following a collision, but they could feasibly catch fire in a garage if the car ran over debris and caused unseen damage to the battery.
  • The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports there have been three separate incidents where Pittsburgh area men were burned by their e-cigs’ exploding lithium ion batteries. Two required thigh skin grafts for third-degree burns, while the third received second-degree burns trying to pull the profusely smoking product out of his pants pocket.. A 2014 report by the US Fire Administration stated, “The shape and construction of e-cigarettes make them more likely than other products powered by lithium-ion batteries to behave like a ‘flaming rocket’ when it fails.” The administration documented 25 incidents from 2009-2014, including two cases of serious injury.
  • KDKA News reports that a 7-year-old Pittsburgh boy, injured his finger when the Proscan tablet he was using exploded in his hands. No other information has come to light about this particular story, but an 8-year-old girl was similarly injured by a Proscan tablet’s exploding battery a year later, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission website. The government agency has published information on 172 lithium-ion battery related recalls for various products from Brookstone wireless speakers and Amazon portable power banks, to Go Wheels hoverboards and Sony VAIO laptops.

Why Do Lithium Ion Batteries Explode?

A high-quality lithium-ion battery should be perfectly safe when used as intended. Fires may occur when:

  • Refurbished or non-certified batteries are used (as in the case of the exploding hoverboards).
  • Manufacturing defects are uncovered (as in Samsung Galaxy Note 7s)
  • Batteries are subjected to excessive vibration, elevated heat, or charging below freezing.
  • Batteries dip below 2V/cell for a length of time and then get recharged.
  • Batteries with a full charge are exposed to sun or heat.
  • Batteries are exposed to mechanical stress, such as crushing, compressing, or puncturing.

What to Do After A Lithium Ion Battery Explosion

If you or a loved one are involved in a lithium-ion battery explosion:

  • Call for help! Dial 9-1-1 to reach the fire department immediately. Unfortunately, most fire extinguishers do little to combat this type of chemical fire. If you can, get the gadget to a safe place like the sidewalk or concrete driveway to let it burn out. Even after the fire seemingly goes out, the device can re-ignite. These devices emit toxic fumes when burning, so be sure all members of your household, including pets, remain clear of the area.
  • Seek medical attention! The full extent of physical damage caused by a lithium-ion fire may not be obvious right away. Since batteries emit toxic fumes, it is important to seek medical attention right away, even if there are no burns to the skin. It’s important to have a medical record documenting your physical state, should you wish to pursue legal action at a later date.
  • Document the evidence! Keep the defective battery in a safe place. Take photos of the damaged item, as well as any injuries or property damage. Make notes about the date, time, and location of the fire, as well as the preceding events before you forget. Ask the fire department for a copy of the incident report and get a copy of your medical records from your doctor. Make a formal complaint on the US Product Safety Commission website.
  • Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer! Manufacturers are responsible for releasing safe products to market and warning consumers of all known risks. A lawyer will conduct a thorough investigation of what happened and help you construct a strong legal case for you. If you or a family member suffered injuries, you may be entitled to compensation. If you suffered significant property damage, required medical procedures for treatment, and were using the product as intended, you may have a substantial case. Consultation with our personal injury attorneys are free and you owe nothing until you win compensation through a settlement or jury award. Chaffin Luhana is happy to answer any questions you have about an exploding lithium ion battery lawsuit. We represent cases nationwide with experience, skill, and the resources necessary to win.

Additional Resources:

  1. Scribd – Schneider vs. Tesla, https://www.scribd.com/document/395820873/Schneider-v-Tesla
  2. CNN – Electric Car Fire Risk, https://money.cnn.com/2018/05/17/news/companies/electric-car-fire-risk/index.html
  3. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Three Men Suffer Serious Burns from E-Cigarette Battery Fires, https://www.post-gazette.com/local/region/2016/03/18/Three-men-suffer-serious-burns-from-e-cigarette-battery-fires/stories/201603170020
  4. US Fire Administration – 2014 Report on E-Cigarettes Fires and Explosions, http://www.njgasp.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/US-Fire-Admin-Oct-2014-report-ecig-fires-and-explosions.pdf