Understanding the Dangers of Lithium Ion Batteries [infographic]

Lithium ion battery failures within airplanes, cars, and consumer electronics can have catastrophic and sometimes fatal consequences. The risks to consumers are growing as more and more manufacturers include lithium ion batteries within their product designs.When a lithium ion battery causes personal injury or property damage, a product liability attorney in Nevada can help uncover the manufacturing and design defects that led to the failure.

Lithium Ion Batteries & Thermal Runaway

Lithium ion batteries are designed to be lightweight and packed with more power than traditional counterparts. The process of most battery failure starts when the separator inside the battery is punctured or fails. As the battery heats up, the protective layer inside the battery breaks down. When this happens, this causes the electrolyte inside to boil and emit flammable gasses. The potential for explosion grows when the pressure grows and these gasses within the device combine with oxygen generated by the breakdown of the cathode. When the separator melts away, this can cause a short circuit that ignites the gasses and causes an explosive fire to erupt. In some cases, these fires can occur even when the device is turned “off.”

Firing up the Galaxy Note 7

The most recent lithium ion failures have occurred in the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. After multiple fires were reported in just the first few weeks since the product was released, the company was forced to recall nearly 2.5 million devices and halt production. To date, 96 of the devices have caught fire. These fires have caused 13 burn injuries, and 47 have caused property damage. The company says that it is investigating the problem, but has yet to release detailed information to the public regarding the reasons the batteries are prone to combustion.

The Dreamliner Turns into a Nightmare

There were four serious fires in 2013 that plagued the Boeing Dreamliner’s first year in operation. Upon investigation, it was determined that the lithium ion batteries within the aircraft’s fuselage were to blame. The FAA ordered the grounding of all 787 Dreamliner’s until Boeing rectified the problem. The company modified their aircraft to better contain the fires, however, the reasons the lithium ion batteries were prone to thermal failure have not been discovered or released. This means that the potential for tragedy is still very real with these faulty devices.

Hoverboards Blaze a Trail

Hoverboards were the hottest toys to hit the market in 2015. By July of 2016, nearly 60 fires had been reported to the United States Product Safety Commission. This fires caused by the product’s defective lithium ion batteries led to more than $2 million in property damage. The investigation into the faulty devices determined that there was no single identifiable cause of the fires, nor was there a single company whose products should be avoided. Indeed, it was determined that the hoverboard manufacturers were sourcing parts from thousands of Chinese companies.

The World’s Hottest Computers

The problems that Samsung is having with their Galaxy Note 7’s are similar to problems DELL computer experienced in 2006 when the lithium ion batteries included within their laptop computers caused 6 fires. The fires forced DELL to recall nearly 4.1 million batteries from the marketplace.

In June 2016, HP was forced to recall 50,000 Compaq, HP ProBook, Presario’s, and Pavilion computers following seven reports to the CSPC of battery packs that were overheating. These failures led the devices to melt or become charred and caused nearly $4,000 in property damage. However, since the problem was first discovered in 2010, there have been more than 40 reports of the batteries failing that were filed directly with the company. As with the Hoverboards, the devices used lithium ion batteries sourced and installed in Chinese factories.

The Threat to Consumers is Growing

Lithium ion batteries pack a considerable electronic punch. This makes them appealing to device manufacturers because it means their devices can deliver higher performance and longer battery life. However, the devices have proven to be extremely volatile.

While manufacturers have included multiple safety measures such as battery vents and stricter testing of their devices through stress and drop tests, serious deficiencies remain in regulating the manufacturing processes. While these devices may meet the safety standards set forth by UN 38.3, UL 1642, and UL 60950-1, there still exists the potential for manufacturing defects to slip through and into the pockets and backpacks of consumers.

Product liability attorneys in Nevada can help consumers seek damages for burns, respiratory problems caused by inhaling toxic fumes, and property damage that lithium ion battery fires can lead to. In Nevada, consumers can file claims for product liability up to 4 years after the incident. However, the statute of limitations for property damage is three years, and personal injury is just two years.