Today, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued an official recall for the Galaxy Note 7, the Korean electronics manufacturer Samsung’s flagship large-screen smartphone, which is widely viewed as the arch-rival of Apple’s iPhone. The recall was issued for all Note 7 smartphones sold before September 15, 2016 and was based on 92 reports received by Samsung (and later reported to the CPSC)¬†of the devices’ batteries overheating during charging, causing some of the phones to burst into flames and causing serious personal injuries. ¬†This week, a man who suffered third degree burns when his Galaxy Note 7 exploded, filed a products liability lawsuit against the Korean smartphone manufacturer in New Jersey state court.
The lithium-ion batteries used in the Galaxy Note 7. and several other consumer electronics, have been the subject of several reports in recent years of exploding hoverboards , overheating laptops, and causing electrical disturbances on airplanes. ¬†However, due to the widespread use of smartphones, the explosion risk posed by the Note 7 could cause a serious dent into the brand image for Samsung, who is the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer and is considered to be Apple’s chief competitor in the high-end smartphone ¬†market. Given the ubiquity of smartphones, it is very likely that more personal injury lawsuits will follow the one that was filed in New Jersey this week, causing even more damage to Samsung’s reputation, and consequently to¬†its bottom line.
The CPSC’s recall allows the U.S. government to take several steps to address the risk posed by the Note 7 smartphones, including making it illegal to continue selling the devices or use them on airplanes. Indeed, even before the recall was announced today, several airlines have banned passengers from using or charging their Note 7’s on flights due to the risk of explosion. A similar ban was instituted by airlines for hoverboards containing lithium-ion batteries during the busy holiday travel season last year, which are prone to exploding even when not in use.
Samsung has been criticized by consumer advocates and U.S. regulators for its initial response to to the safety crisis. In late August, Samsung announced that it would delay shipments of the Note 7 following reports in the Korean media of exploding handsets. Earlier this month, the company announced a voluntary replacement program, but did not inform U.S. regulators about it prior to making the program public-a potential violation of U.S. law governing recalls of consumer products. ¬†Additionally, Samsung has been criticized for downplaying the risk posed by the Note 7, most notably for telling its customers in South Korea that the problem could be fixed by simply downloading a software patch onto their phones that would limit the charge on the device’s batteries, implying that the phones were safe to use so long as they were not fully charged. You can read more about the Note 7 recall here: ¬†https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2016/09/15/consumer-product-safety-commission-issues-an-official-recall-for-the-galaxy-note-7/
This isn’t the first time that Samsung has faced controversy over reports of its consumer products causing personal injuries and property damages. There have been several reports worldwide¬†over the last few years that Samsung’s popular top loading washing machines have a tendency to explode during operation due to a design defect that caused the internal drums in the machines to come loose and become disengaged when the steel suspension mounts securing them failed. Consumers across the globe have also reported that Samsung washers have been prone to catch fire spontaneously and leak water, causing extensive property damage. An exploding Samsung washer caused injury to a California woman, who filed suit against the company in 2014.¬†
The trial attorneys at the Law Offices of Brian D. Witzer have extensive experience in litigating product liability claims involving defective consumer appliances, automobiles, heavy machinery, medical devices, and dangerous drugs, and have achieved record setting results for our clients. If you or a loved one have been injured by an exploding Galaxy Note 7 smartphone, or any other defective consumer appliance, contact the lawyers at the Law Offices of Brian D. Witzer for a free consultation regarding your legal rights.
Unless you have been living under a rock, hoverboards are the craze of the holiday season and are far and away the most popular gift being unwrapped this Christmas. While the gadgets have been wildly popular among the young and not so young, they also have been the subject of a growing number of stories in the media regarding their safety.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (UCPSC) is currently investigating a least a dozen instances of hoverboards catching fire, destroying bedrooms and entire homes in certain instances. While the agency’s investigation is ongoing, CNET reports that all of these fires were likely a result of the lithium ion battery packs that power hoverboards. Lithium ion batteries contain a highly flammable liquid which can easily ignite if a defective battery short-circuits and pierces the thin sheet of plastic separating the positive and negative sides of the battery.
The fact that lithium ion batteries are volatile and present a fire hazard is not new news. These are the same types of batteries that power our cell phones, tablets, and laptops. In the 2000’s , stories of exploding cell phones and laptop fires dominated the headlines. Such incidents prompted computer maker Dell to recall millions of laptop lithium ion batteries after six of its laptops caught fire. More recently, Boeing had to ground its new 787 Dreamliner aircraft until it could develop a way to stop its lithium ion battery packs from overheating.
In response to these incidents, the UCPSC forced the consumer electronics industry to develop uniform safety standards for products that were powered by lithium ion batteries. As a result, more vigorous stress testing of lithium battery powered devices and implementation of additional safety measures, like emergency vents to prevent overheating, followed. As a result of those measures, laptops and cell phones have become relatively safe today.
Because they are are a brand new device, no such uniform safety standards exist for hoverboards. Most hoverboards are manufactured in hundreds of factories in China that use interchangeable components for many brands of hoverboards, making it difficult to source defective batteries or other components that may contribute to overheating of the battery. Because there is no uniform safety certification for these devices and vast array of companies competing to cash in on this latest technology fad, there is a huge incentive for manufacturers to cut corners on safety in order to increase profit margins .
While U.S. regulators are still investigating the causes of these fires, other countries and private companies have already taken action. The United Kingdom has virtually banned hoverboards in the country, making it illegal for them to be used on sidewalks and public streets. Several U.S. airlines and airports have banned the devices altogether. Depending on the results of the UCPSC investigation, several courses of action could be taken by U.S. regulators, ranging from adoption of stringent safety standards to an outright ban on the devices. It is important to remember that in addition to fire, hoverboards have been responsible for several emergency room visits over the holidays.
Pending action by regulators regarding hoverboards, consumers should consider refraining from purchasing them. However, for those that have already been injured from a hoverboard, consultation with a lawyer experienced in product liability law in your jurisdiction is highly recommended. The Law Offices of Brian D. Witzer, a law firm specializing in representing consumers injured by defective products is currently accepting hoverboard injury cases for review. If you or a loved one has been injured by a hoverboard, call the experienced attorneys at the Law Offices of Brian D. Witzer for a free consultation to learn about your legal rights.