Samsung Battery Explosion – Is Your Device Safe? 

Published in Products Liability on October 7, 2016

It seems like there’s been a lot of news lately about exploding batteries. First, it was hover boards, now it’s our cell phones. Samsung’s recently-released Note 7 has been recalled for – you guessed it – exploding batteries.  Just yesterday, one exploded just before a Southwest Airlines flight taxied from the gate.

Why Are These Batteries Exploding?

Cell phones use the same kind of batteries as those pesky hoverboards – lithium ion. They’re small and powerful and rechargeable, and that’s great. But they’re also full of flammable liquid. And if the positive and negative sides of the battery somehow come into contact (because of a puncture in the barrier between them, for example, or pressure from a badly-made component) then the electricity starts flowing. And that makes heat. And that can set the liquid on fire, causing a very fast and hot boom.

It appears that many of the batteries manufactured for Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 have a manufacturing defect that can cause just that kind of explosion.

So far, just about a hundred or so Note 7 handsets have actually blown up. Those explosions have caused plenty of property damage (imagine it going up in your car or on your nightstand) as well as some severe burns (imagine it going up in your pocket). More than a million Note 7 handsets have been sold, so that’s a pretty small number – but a pretty big risk.

The Recall

Working with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, Samsung has recalled all the Note 7 handsets with batteries that could be affected by the manufacturing defect. Basically, that’s every Note 7 sold before the middle of September.

If you have a Note 7 affected by the recall, do not use it. Authorities recommend that you turn off the phone, box it up, and take it in to the nearest retailer to exchange it for either a new Note 7 or an alternative smartphone. Note that the FAA has banned these phones from being used in flight, so act quickly if you’re planning a trip.

Samsung Already Has Lawsuits Rolling In

When a product turns out to be dangerous, the maker of the product is legally on the hook – this is called “products liability.” In most of the US, products liability is a “strict liability” issue. In other words, if the product is found to be dangerous, the product maker is liable even if they didn’t know about it.

Now, lawsuits from people that have been injured or have had property damaged have started to roll in. The first suit was filed by a man whose Note 7 exploded in his pocket. It scorched his thighs and his hand as he tried to get the burning phone out of the pocket. In general, this kind of lawsuit can result in compensation for medical care, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. Our Springfield burn injury lawyers can help you recover compensation for the damages.

Other Devices May Share The Same Problem

Samsung stopped the sales and shipping of all the phones affected by the original defect, but it’s possible that the problem may be more widespread. One customer in China reported that a Note 7 that he had purchased at the end of September exploded just a day after he purchased it. Those phones are supposed to be from a new lot without the manufacturing defect. This incident is currently considered a one-off, but will likely further damage the phone’s popularity.

And not only may more Notes than we thought be a problem – other phones may also be an issue. One Ohio man has filed a lawsuit against Samsung over burns caused by a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge that exploded in his pocket – and that’s a completely different phone.

Avoiding Exploding Cell Phones

We’re almost never without our phones. They’re in our purses and our pockets when we walk out the door and they’re next to our beds when we sleep. And most of us can’t do without them. So, what can we do to stay as safe as possible?

First, please take advantage of the recall as soon as possible if you have an affected Note 7. Second, try to keep your phone farther away from your bed as you sleep – it will take longer for you to realize what’s going on if you’re deep asleep and you don’t want the phone exploding near your bed. Third, you should always use the original charger or an approved charger. The cheap replacements are generally poorly made and can put out an unstable flow of electricity, which may make the battery more likely to explode. Finally, keep an eye on the temperature of your phone. If it starts to get hot (which it can do if the weather is really warm or if you’re using it heavily for a sustained period of time), turn it off and let it cool down. If you notice that your phone is frequently overheating, take it in to the nearest retailer and ask them to take a look at it.

If you’ve been injured or had property damaged by an exploding cell phone, you may be entitled to compensation by the manufacturer. You should store the phone in a sealed bag and, if possible, take pictures of the scene and of your injuries. Make sure that you get a complete copy of your medical records as well. You can take all of that evidence to an experienced local personal injury attorney and they’ll guide you through the process of claiming compensation.