Parents of tweens and teens have probably found it difficult to escape the hoverboard hype that seems to have captured the attention of young people across the nation. The devices are probably more aptly described as self-balancing scooters, but the term hoverboard, which summons up images of simultaneously levitating while cutting through the air on a skateboard-type device, is undoubtedly cooler and more marketable. However, rest assured that these self-balancing scooters are entirely terrestrial and travel on two wheels.
Unfortunately, parents and others considering purchasing one of these devices shouldn’t rest too easily. There have been a myriad of reports calling into question the safety of these types of devices. Reports of damages include not only the slip and fall risk, but also a fire and explosion risk likely attributed to the device’s lithium-ion battery. Even before Christmas and one of the largest single gift-giving days in the United States a myriad of reports have already come in regarding the dangers of these devices. In fact, the Chairman of Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has taken the unusual step of going on record to announce that there is “No safety standard in place for Hoverboards.”
CPSC Chairman: Consumers Deserve Answers About the Safety of Hoverboards
CPSC Chairman Kaye has announced that he has directed the workers of CPSC to “work non-stop” to determine the root cause of the hoverboard fires. Previously, CPSC had only recognized the falling risk presented by devices of this type. While injuries due to falling can produce serious injuries, the risk of a fire or explosion caused by a hoverboard’s lithium-ion battery presents a risk not only to the user but also to any individual in the immediate vicinity of the unit.
Unfortunately, reports regarding the fire risk are particularly harrowing. In one incident where a hoverboard caught fire while charging in Louisiana, the fire burned intensely and spread throughout the home in only a matter of minutes. The homeowner and mother of the child whose hoverboard caught fire described the incident as, “It was like fireworks … the middle part of the board, just ‘poof.'” Unfortunately, this is not the only incident of hoverboards catching fire. A second incident occurred in Louisiana and another report of a hoverboard fire has come out of New York. In one particularly frightening ordeal reported in Gulf Shores, Alabama, a hoverboard exploded and caught fire while being ridden by the user. The fact that hoverboards have shown a propensity to catch fire or explode during any phase of use.
According to the Chairman, CPSC investigators have been dispatched to locations throughout the nation. They will continue to open new cases and research into the causes behind the fires and explosions as they are received. Furthermore, the Chairman stated that CPSC engineers are also working on determining the root cause of these fires. He stated that one chief inquiry by the engineers is the configuration of the battery packs installed into these units. Additionally, engineers are assessing the compatibility of a broad array of charges with hoverboards.
CPSC Chairman States that Retailers Have a Duty to Investigate Products
After bemoaning the state of regulation including the fact that “there is no safety standard in place for hoverboards” Chairman Kaye then stated that retailers should use always ask suppliers about the risks presented by the products they offer. He stated, “Retailers should always be asking their suppliers if there is an applicable safety standard in place before agreeing to sell those products. The absence of any standard should cause retailers to require extra proof of sound design manufacturing and quality control processes.
Some suggestions offered by the chairman and our Philadelphia product liability lawyers to protect consumers include:
- Avoid purchasing from online sellers and mall kiosks. If there is a problem, you may be left with little recourse if your temporary retailer vanishes.
- Do not charge the devices overnight.
- Watch the devices at all times during charging or during use.
- Look for a mark on the product or packaging signifying that the product has undergone testing at a nationally recognized laboratory
- Wear safety gear at all times when operating a hoverboard.
The Chairman states that he, “this is a popular product during this holiday season.” He assures the public that CPSC is “…doing everything possible to determine if consumers are at risk. We will keep the public up-to-date with new information as it becomes available. ”