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Pennsylvania Hoverboard Battery Fire Kills Toddler, Destroys Home

There are few things more heartbreaking than the death of a loved one. However, the loss seems even worse when the loved one is a young child and the cause of the accident was preventable. A Pennsylvania family faces the loss of their young two-year-old daughter after a children’s toy, a hoverboard, caught on fire and started a blaze that consumed the family’s home. Our Philadelphia product liability lawyers explain:

Unfortunately, the risk of a fire due to a faulty or defective lithium-ion battery is becoming something of a facet of modern life. Lithium batteries are used to power an array of modern electronics ranging including laptop computers, smartphones, electronic cigarettes, and other devices. However, the nature of and typical uses of certain products can make a battery fire or incident significantly more likely.

Lithium Battery Fire in Hoverboard Kills Toddler and Severely Injures Five Others

On Friday, March 10, 2017, a fire broke out in a Lehigh County, Pennsylvania home due to a  faulty battery in a hoverboard. Hoverboards are popular gyro-balanced toy that children and adults can ride on. Hoverboards were an extremely sought after holiday gift in 2015, however reports regarding their dangers have significantly dampened enthusiasm for the products.

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According to the family’s account of the events, the hoverboard was plugged-in to recharge on the first floor of the home. As has been recommended by CPSC and other consumer safety advocates, a family member was present in the room with the device while it was charging. The family members said that they,  “heard some sizzling and crackling in the hoverboard and shortly thereafter, it exploded in flames.”

The fire spread through the home extremely rapidly. Fire officials reported that one of the family members was forced to jump from a second story porch roof to escape the flames. Unfortunately, not all family members were able to escape unscathed. 3-year-old Ashanti Hughes was pronounced dead due to the injuries suffered in the fire at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest. She is the first known death due to a hoverboard fire. Two girls remained in critical condition at the hospital due to the injuries. Two other family members were treated for minor injuries and released.

What Makes Hoverboard Batteries Especially Prone to Fires and Explosions?

A number of consumer safety group, including Underwriters Laboratories (UL), have sounded the alarm regarding the potential for hoverboard injuries and deaths. While there is certainly the concern that users of the product will suffer injuries due to falls from the devices due to miscalibrated gyros or sensors, the battery fire risk is even more concerning. There are several factors that make the batteries in hoverboards more prone to catastrophic failures.

To start, the hoverboard was a remarkably popular device during the 2015 holiday season. As such, many manufacturers rushed to take advantage of the opportunity. Unfortunately, many of these devices were rushed to market as adaptations of popular models. A number of these hoverboards used low-quality parts and failed to make certain design considerations. At least some of these batteries were of such low quality that they failed immediately. However, the use and abuse suffered over time make remaining batteries even more likely to have an issue.

Another battery fire risk factor is the sheer capacity of the lithium batteries used in hoverboards. Generally, the batteries used in these devices have, at least, several times the capacity of the battery found in your phone. That means if something goes wrong with the battery causing it to enter thermal runaway, there is significantly more energy present. Whereas a faulty cell phone battery may quickly flame out, the energy stored in a large capacity lithium battery can result in a prolonged, intense fire.

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Finally, the nature of the use of hoverboards also subjects these batteries to significant abuse. The batteries are located in a plastic housing that the user of the product stands on. As the user travels over bumps and divets, his or her weight will continually shift. If the product does not account for these and other forces, the batter can be subjected to significant abuse. This abuse makes failures much more likely to occur.

CPSC Has Warned About Hoverboard Battery Fires

Consumer Product Safety Commission has warned about the fire risk presented by hoverboards. Last July, CPSC head, Elliot F. Kaye, warned that the hoverboard fire danger was still lurking despite recall and public awareness campaigns. At the time, Mr. Kaye warned that “If you own a hoverboard, please stop using it immediately and check [the CPSC] website.” He further emphasized the potential danger stating, “all of the hoverboard models that are recalled were made with fundamental design flaws that put people at risk.” He also warned that even if your Hoverboard appears to be UL certified, the standard is still new and you could still end up with a potentially problematic device.

Contact a Philadelphia Product Liability Attorney Today

At The Reiff Law Firm, our Pennsylvania hoverboard injury attorneys urge all families to return hoverboards so that they do not experience this type of terrible tragedy. However, if a loved one has already suffered a serious injury due to a fall from a hoverboard, lithium battery fire, or battery explosion please contact our Philadelphia law office for a free and confidential consultation – (215) 709-6940.

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