Defective Hoverboards Claim Their First Life


A Pennsylvania family is grieving the loss of a three-year-old killed in a house fire last month in Harrisburg. The cause is believed to be a re-charging hoverboard that burst into flames, starting the fire that caused the fatality and left two house occupants in critical condition. Such an accident can happen in New Jersey if defective batteries are re-charged and catch fire.

Three-year-old Ashanti Hughes was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital, reports the Los Angeles Times. One occupant jumped to safety from a second-floor porch roof and three others were taken out by firefighters using ladders. The fire department has ruled the fire accidental, stating it was caused by a hoverboard plugged in to recharge on the first floor, where family members were present. They reportedly heard the hoverboard make sizzling and crackling noises before it exploded in flames.

Fire Chief Brian Enterline told the press that hoverboards are “notorious for starting fires” and asked people not to use what he called “knockoff brands” that are unsafe. “We’ve seen too many fires and too many fire fatalities as a result of these hoverboards,” he said.

NBC reports that a U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) spokesperson called the death the first fatality in the country linked to a hoverboard-related fire.

The problem with these hoverboards, as well as defective e-cigarettes and Samsung phones, is that their lithium-ion batteries can malfunction and cause fires. According to The Economist:

  • Lithium is the least dense metallic element, so its light weight makes it a good choice for batteries in portable devices because it can pack more power per pound than other types of batteries.
  • On the down side, lithium is a highly reactive, potentially volatile, substance.
  • These batteries contain two electrodes separated by an electrolyte (often a solution of lithium salts and solvents). When charged, lithium ions flow to a carbon anode. When discharged, they flow back.
  • Problems start if there is a fault or damage to very thin separators keeping the sections of the battery apart.
  • If the separator fails, the battery can short circuit, heat up and trigger a “thermal runaway” where the battery over heats and can explode into flames. If there is more than one battery in a device, this can cause a chain-reaction of multiple batteries catching fire.
  • Lithium batteries can also be damaged if they’re used in hot environments and if they are discharged to the point that they have almost no power then are re-charged.

The CPSC recalled about a half-million hoverboards in July of last year due to the fire hazards caused by their batteries, according to CNN. Just two weeks after the Samsung 7 smartphone went on sale in 2016, the company recalled the product because of a number of battery fires, reports CNET.

If you or a family member has suffered injuries due to a defective lithium ion battery in New Jersey, schedule a free consultation with our office by calling us at (973) 358-6134 or by using our online quick connect form. Contact us so you can learn about your rights to compensation for injuries caused by defective products, what you need to do to protect those rights and how we can help.

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