Can I Sue Over My Lithium Battery Fire?
Helping Survivors of Lithium Battery Fires
Lithium battery lawsuits are aiding survivors of battery-related fires and explosions, but the epidemic of incidents caused by the defective power packs continues to put people in danger.
Explosion lawyers at Pritzker Hageman are reviewing and responding to the issue, discovering how courts, cities, fire departments and safety agencies are combating it. Unfortunately for consumers, the outlook was best summarized by Steve Kerber, vice president and executive director of Underwriters Laboratory (UL) Fire Safety Research Institute:
“The more batteries that surround us, the more incidents we will see,’’ he said.
E-bikes, E-scooters, hoverboards, cordless power tools, laptops, E-cigarettes, cameras, and electric massage guns have all been implicated in fires and explosions causing injury or death. While well-manufactured lithium-ion batteries are generally safe, the consumer market is flooded with cheap, substandard, defective batteries capable of exploding into fire. Even small devices can create torch-like flames when a defective battery explodes. Most often, the trouble starts when the devices are plugged in for battery recharging.
Pritzker Hageman represents burn injury survivors and families who lost a loved one. Lawsuits filed by our attorneys have resulted in burn settlements and wrongful death verdicts ranging up to $45 million. A primary focus in litigation is holding wrongdoers accountable. Manufacturers and dealers of defective lithium batteries can be held liable for burns, smoke inhalation and wrongful death depending on circumstances. For survivors and next of kin, it’s important to quickly hire an attorney capable of investigating the facts of your case.
Lithium Battery Lawsuit Causes
Lithium-Ion battery fires can be deadly because they are self-sustaining and difficult to extinguish. They contain a pressurized electrolyte fluid capable of rupturing and creating a highly dangerous thermal explosion with a tremendous amount of fire.
Lithium battery explosion lawsuits have cropped up throughout the United States, including in New York City. Over the past three years, New York has experienced a rapid increase in lithium-ion battery fires associated with E-bikes and E-scooters stored inside apartment buildings. As of mid-February of 2023, the Fire Department (FDNY) investigated 346 battery-related fires dating to early 2021. In those emergencies, 11 people died and 262 were injured.
On Sept. 17, 2022, in Queens, an E-scooter’s battery exploded and caused a residential fire that killed an 8-year-old girl. About two months later, a fire at a residential building on East 52nd Street injured at least 38 people. FDNY investigators discovered that the fire started in a 20th-floor apartment where a resident allegedly conducted repairs to E-bikes – unauthorized by the city. Also last fall, a massive fire at an E-bike shop in Queens destroyed all merchandise in the store.
Investigations into the fires found that some individuals were assembling or reconditioning lithium-ion batteries using cells removed from used batteries, skirting UL certification. The findings prompted the New York City Council in 2023 to amend the fire code, prohibiting such practices. What’s more, the action required the Fire Department to engage in an outreach campaign to notify repair shops they are prohibited from selling lithium-ion batteries assembled or reconditioned using cells removed from used batteries.
The spate of high-profile E-bike fires prompted the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to send a warning letter in December 2022 to more than 2,000 manufacturers and importers of electric mobility devices, including hoverboards. The agency urged compliance with UL standards and threatened enforcement action if products present an “unreasonable risk of fire and risk of serious injury or death.”
The safety commission said it received reports of 208 micro-mobility fires or overheating incidents from 39 states from Jan. 1, 2021, through November 28, 2022. Those failures caused 19 deaths, including five associated with E-scooters, 11 with hoverboards and three with E-bikes. Another 22 people were injured badly enough to be treated in hospital emergency departments.
A review of research on defective lithium batteries shows a strong focus on internal short circuits. Underwriters Laboratory has partnered with researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and NASA, our national space agency, to better understand the root causes of internal short circuits. Once there is an agreement, new test standards will be designed for manufacturers to assess the integrity of their devices.
In the meantime, Pritzker Hageman is getting behind an informational campaign to educate the public on the fire risks posed by battery-powered E-bikes, hoverboards, E-scooters and personal, rechargeable power tools. High-quality, UL-tested lithium-ion batteries are generally unlikely to fail, but even they may present a fire or explosion hazard when they become damaged from dropping, crashing, improper storage or unsanctioned usage.
Take Safety Precautions
What follows is a list of fire prevention guidelines when handling lithium battery-powered devices.
- Buy UL-certified electric bikes and scooters from reputable retailers.
- Use the charger that comes with the device.
- Don’t recharge when you are away, or sleeping.
- Charge in a cool, dry place away from flammables or other battery-powered devices.
- Let the device cool before charging.
- Keep away from heat sources.
- Don’t charge to 100 percent and don’t run it down to zero.
- Replace any batteries damaged from impact.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for charging and storage.
- Plug directly into a wall electrical outlet for charging.
- Never use aftermarket (or generic) batteries or chargers.
Talk to an Experienced Burn Injury Attorney
Every day you hesitate to contact us could detract from the task of gathering evidence. For you and your family, our explosion and burn team cares about building you the best possible case while holding wrongdoers accountable.