Learning About Criminal Law Proceedings

Two Ways A Manufacturer May Be Held Responsible For Exploding Batteries

Billions of batteries power billions of devices every year without any problems most of the time. Unfortunately, a small percentage go bad for one reason or another, resulting in accidents that have lead to property destruction and physical injury. For instance, a woman recently suffered facial burns when her battery-powered headphones caught on fire mid-flight. When incidents like this happen, it's possible to hold the manufacturer responsible for the accident in two ways.

Defective Product Claim

One common reason batteries go bad is because they contained defects introduced either during the design or manufacturing process. Batteries require a series of complex chemical reactions to take place to store energy and supply it to electronic devices. Any miscalculation in the battery's design or while it's being put together can lead to problems. This also extends to the products the batteries power. For instance, Samsung's spate of Note 7 fires was caused by the use of batteries that didn't fit the phones, leading them to overheat and explode.

The elements of a defective product claim are fairly straightforward. You must show:

  • The product contained design or manufacturing flaws that was the proximate cause of the explosion
  • The accident caused your injuries
  • You were using the product as intended
  • You suffered compensable damages and losses

The biggest challenge with this claim is showing the design or manufacturing flaw was the most likely cause of the battery going bad and causing an explosion. Sometimes the connection isn't always clear, especially if there were other things that could cause the battery to blow up. For instance, dropping a device can cause internal damage that leads to the battery malfunctioning. Even if there was a defect, if the damage to the battery was the most likely cause of the explosion, you may have a hard time collecting compensation for your injuries.

Making these connections will typically require having a technical expert detail what went wrong and explain it to the court in an easy-to-digest manner.

Failure to Warn

Another way battery (and by extension device) manufacturers can be held liable for explosion caused by their products is failure to provide consumers with important information about the use and disposal of the products. As noted previously, batteries use a series of chemical reactions to store and distribute energy. This makes them inherently dangerous, requiring consumers to take special precautions and avoid performing certain actions, such as avoiding putting batteries near a heat source. If the manufacturer fails to warn the public about these dangers, they could be held liable for any damages and losses consumers sustain as a result.

The challenge with this legal theory is showing the danger wasn't obvious or predictable. Some dangers are so well trenched into the public consciousness that a formal warning is not required. For instance, people know that if you throw batteries into a fire, they will explode. Not only are people warned about this through the use of other battery-powered devices, but this is often demonstrated in television shows, movies, and other forms of entertainment. Therefore, the defendant could escape liability by stating the defendant knew or should have known what would happen if he or she left the batteries near a fire.

On the other hand, many people don't know that overcharging a battery or letting it charge too fast can also cause them to blow up, something that can occur for different reasons including using the wrong type of charger to recharge the battery. If the manufacturer doesn't inform consumers about this issue, it could be held liable if the consumer unintentionally does something to lead to this result.

For more information about product liability issues related to exploding batteries or help with a case, contact an attorney at a place like Daniels Long & Pinsel.