CPSC Announces Official Recall for Defective Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Smartphones

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In a previous blog post, we discussed Samsung’s decision to use non-removable lithium-based batteries in many of its popular smartphones including the Galaxy Note and Galaxy S series. This decision to use batteries that the user cannot easily replace allows for sleeker phone designs. However, this closed-body approach to manufacturing smartphones and other electronic devices comes with certain trade-offs. For one, if the phone’s battery is defective or develops problems over time, the problem is not easily remedied by the consumer and professional support is required. Were you injured by a defective product or phone battery? Contact a Philadelphia product liability attorney.

However, the main problem we initially identified with Samsung’s approach to the defective phone battery response was that, while the electronics manufacturing giant characterized its action as a recall, the corrective action was actually voluntary. That is, an official recall requires action by Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Furthermore, an official recall means that it is illegal for retailers to continue to sell the defective product and illegal to use the product in certain safety-intensive scenarios such as on an airplane.

Initially, Samsung’s actions were not an official recall and therefore potentially defective devices were still being sold by retailers. Furthermore, retailers lacked guidance regarding the proper method of handling returned devices. Thus a patchwork of inconsistent and consumer-frustrating approaches developed that may reduce the likelihood that consumers will seek a replacement device. However, Samsung and CPSC recently announced an official recall. Only time will tell whether the newly announced official recall will be able to remedy the consequences of Samsung’s initial handling of the issue.

Over 70 Overheating or Exploding Incidents Have been Linked to the Note 7 in the U.S. Alone

Early in September, Samsung stated that it was aware of at least 35 incidents of Galaxy Note 7 devices overheating, catching on fire, or exploding. However, by mid-September, Samsung stated that it was aware of at least 90 incidents where the phone caught fire or otherwise malfunctioned. These incidents include 26 reports of burns and 55 reports of property damage. This rapid increase in reported incidents is still open to interpretation, but one could draw several conclusions.

First, one could conclude that Samsung significantly underestimated the likelihood of these incidents in the early-going to see if more severe problems would develop. In this view of events, the voluntary recall would have served as something of an olive branch to affected consumers. Alternatively, one could also assess the situation as one where Samsung may have failed to appreciate that the progressive stress created by charging and discharging the battery would increase the rate of failure as time progressed.

Particularly noteworthy incidents of Note 7 explosions include one incident where a charging Note 7 in the garage was blamed for a house fire. The phone and homeowner stated that he left his phone to charge at home when he went to pick up his daughters. When he came home, he found his home in flames and firefighters attempting to put out the blaze. In another scenario, a phone charging in a Jeep Grand Cherokee caught fire while the vehicle was parked in a driveway. In yet another incident, an exploding Note 7 was blamed for a car fire while the vehicle was being driven. According to an eyewitness report, “A car caught fire from a charge(ing) Note Galaxy 7 on Crosstown (in) Port St. Lucie. I was told (that) the gentleman was charging his phone when he heard a loud pop (and then) the phone blew up. I am a nurse so I stopped to make sure there was no help needed from me.”

What Should I Know About the Official Note 7 Recall?

According to CPSC, all Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones sold on or prior to September 14, 2016, are included in the recall. If users do not remember when they purchased their device, they can locate the IMEI number provided on their handset or its packaging to determine if their unit is affected by the recall. The IMEI number should be entered into Samsung’s online recall lookup tool. Remember, the only remedy to address the potentially defective battery in these devices is to obtain a replacement device. Covered devices will be able to be exchanged at retailers and phone service providers starting “as early as” September 20, 2016.  While the language seems to provide Samsung with some flexibility regarding the start date, hopefully, Samsung will hit this target. The more time the current devices are in use, the greater the chance of an incident.

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If You Were Injured by a Defective Lithium Battery, Call a Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyer

If you or a loved one have suffered severe burns or other injuries due to a defective Note 7, the personal injury attorneys of The Reiff Law Firm may be able to help. Furthermore, lithium batteries are contained in an array of products ranging from laptop computers to e-cigarettes. The battery in any of these devices has the potential to explode or catch fire when defective or placed under excessive stress. To schedule a free and confidential initial consultation, call an exploding lithium-ion battery burn injury lawyer at (215) 246-9000 or online today.

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