Reports: “Must-Have” Holiday Gift – Hoverboards – Explode, Pose Dangerous Fall Risk
Gregg Hollander | December 24, 2015 | Personal Injury
Despite the 2015 hype of the hoverboard, it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing a proliferation of the futuristic apparatus zooming in 2016.
That’s due to growing concerns that the two-wheeled, self-balancing scooter can catch fire or explode due to faulty wiring. There’s also a reported significant fall risk. A number of retail giants, including Amazon and Overstock, have discontinued sales of the product and some have even warned customers via e-mail to stop using the ones they have purchased. Amazon promised a full refund. It’s an unusual step, especially for such a popular product, but it’s one likely rooted in caution to avoid product liability action. That’s because when a product is dangerous or defective, not only can the manufacturer be held accountable, the distributor can as well.
Although they’ve been banned in the United Kingdom, they are still available in some outlets in the U.S., they’re getting tougher to find. Consumers can still find them directly on manufacturer sites, and there are a few listing that still remain at other distributors. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has logged 29 emergency room visits and 11 reported fires in 11 states, according to The New York Times. The agency said it does expect more injury reports now that Christmas is over because some consumers may not have heard of the problems before items were purchased, wrapped and gifted.
It’s worth pointing out these boards don’t actually “hover” or fly, but they do travel fast enough to cause serious injury in the event of a fall. That’s why some officials have been especially critical of its retail designation as a “toy.” Some local authorities have banned the boards on city sidewalks. They’ve also been prohibited on airplanes. A number of state governments too are issuing warnings following stories of serious fires and explosions.
In one case out of Louisiana, a home was badly damaged last month while it was being recharged. Then earlier this month, holiday shoppers were horrified as they watched one of the devices appeared to catch fire while a man was riding it down a shopping mall sidewalk in Alabama.
The CPSC chairman says the problem seems to be the lithium ion batteries in some of the devices manufactured in China. Some of the batteries may be over-charging, and they could be stacked together in ways not intended.
A big part of the problem is they are unregulated, and a number of different companies end up varying their manufacturing technique so they can sell generic models. That way, they can avoid intellectual property litigation. But the problem is when these products use such a powerful energy source, yet aren’t carefully designed. Our current system for testing product safety and avoiding dangerous product injuries relies heavily on manufacturers and distributors to police themselves. Every once in a while, companies will be penalized for ignoring reports of consumer injuries, incidents or product defects, but there isn’t much to assure the products that wind up on the shelves are going to be safe – even though that’s what consumers presume.
Even high-end models of hoverboard have been indicated problems with explosions, according to Wired.com.
And without regulation, there isn’t much guidance on how to use the products safely. The National Association of Fire Marshals does say consumers should be present while devices are charging and allow them to cool before recharging.
If you have been injured by a dangerous product, contact the Hollander Law Firm at (561) 347-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
Hoverboard Safety Fears Grow as Problems Mount, Dec. 14, 2015, By Katie Rogers, The New York Times
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