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Why Do Lithium-Ion Batteries Explode?

Posted on September 10, 2018 Personal Injury
Lithium ion batteries have been the subject of controversy in recent news. It started with the Galaxy Note phone, with reports of spontaneously combusting units on planes, and some even causing house fires. Now, reports of exploding e-cigarettes and vaping pens make big headlines. An exploding lithium ion battery can lead to burns and other devastating injuries and property damage. It can occur in any item that contains one, from vaping pens to hover boards. Why do lithium ion batteries explode, and what can you do to reduce your risk of injury?

What Is A Lithium Ion Battery?

We consider Lithium ion batteries an important technological advancement in the 21st century, and for the most part this is true. These units boast a long battery life, they’re portable and lightweight, and can accommodate the shape and size of many different types of electronics. Chances are, if you have a newer cell phone, laptop, or electronic device, you have a lithium ion batter in your house right now. Lithium ion batteries serve a great purpose. However, they’re not without their downsides. These units store a lot of power, and when they malfunction, the devastation can be great – for example, an explosion or other form of spontaneous combustion may occur. Overheated lithium ion batteries have been responsible for house fires, burns on the hands and face, and other devastating injuries. Lithium ion batteries are particularly sensitive to high temperatures. When exposed, they can quickly overheat and the consequences can be dire. However, the nature of the battery’s construction can be just as dangerous as the battery itself.

Negligent Construction of Lithium Ion Batteries

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 recall of lithium ion batteries is perhaps the best-known debacle regarding the subject to date. Samsung traced the problem to a manufacturer of the battery in China, which has less stringent regulatory processes than other countries like the United States. By switching manufacturers, they assured the public the phones would be safe once again. In the holiday season of 2016, hover boards were extremely popular. Unfortunately, similar stories of hazards began to come out. Stories of units exploding while they were charging had parents worried for their children’s safety. Retailers, faced with massive returns, encouraged parents to buy units with high quality lithium ion batteries to avoid the possibility of overheating and subsequent injuries and property damage.

Duty of Care to the Consumer

All manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of products have a duty of care to their consumers. When a dangerous or defective product leads to injury, anyone in this chain might be responsible for damages. Any person injured by an exploding lithium ion battery may be able to collect damages from a liable party if the following apply:
  • The product was defective or inherently dangerous; in other words, it did not work in its intended way with normal use.
  • The defective product was the proximal cause of the victim’s injuries.
  • The consumer was using the product as intended.
Most product liability claims fall under the category of strict liability, which means victims will not have to prove that a manufacturer was negligent to collect damages. It does not matter if the party committed negligence or not; since a duty of care to a consumer is higher, the injured party only needs to prove that a defective product directly led to injury. Lithium ion batteries pose a danger to the average consumer. Anyone who owns a product containing a lithium ion battery should keep it in a temperature-controlled environment and avoid charging it for long periods. Doing so could reduce the risk of serious injury.