Over this past weekend, Samsung advised all owners of its Note 7 smartphone to power down their devices and immediately exchange them. This warning comes after a flood of complaints regarding battery overheating issues that may lead to fires.
With reports of Jeep being set ablaze by a Note 7 and a six-year-old Brooklyn boy being injured when a Samsung Galaxy smartphone allegedly exploded in his hands, readers may be wondering what, if any, legal liability the electronics manufacturer may face from these apparently dangerous devices.
Products liability cases in Texas generally fall into three categories: (1) manufacturing defects, (2) design defects, or (3) marketing defects. Depending on the evidence, a particular case could feature any combination of these defects or even all three at the same time.
Under Texas law, a plaintiff (the injured party) has a manufacturing defect claim when the finished product that hurt them deviates, in terms of its construction or quality, from the specifications or planned output in a manner that renders it unreasonably dangerous.
With a design defect case, the plaintiff instead has to prove that (1) there was a safer alternative design and (2) the defect was a producing cause of the personal injury, property damage, or death for which the claimant seeks recovery. “Safer alternative design” means a product design other than the one actually used that likely (1) would have prevented or significantly reduced the risk of the claimant’s personal injury, property damage, or death without substantially impairing the product’s utility and (2) was economically and technologically feasible at the time the product left the control of the manufacturer or seller by the application of existing or reasonably achievable scientific knowledge.
Finally, for a marketing defect case, the plaintiff has to prove that the lack of adequate warnings or instructions rendered a product unreasonably dangerous.
Although Samsung has been guarded when describing the source of the current Note 7 crisis, referring to the problem only as a “battery cell issue,” the likely culprit is the large lithium ion battery that powers the devices. It will likely require a full investigation, including examination of corporate communications and manufacturing specifications, to determine whether this is a case where there was some fatal defect on the manufacturing floor or instead where Samsung designed a product that pushed the capabilities of these batteries too far, resulting in a design defect. In any event, expect to see lawsuits filed for each serious injury caused by these potentially defective smartphones.
If you have been injured by a defective smartphone or other dangerous product, call Alford & Clark now for a free, confidential consultation. Our attorneys are on call – 24/7 – and are happy to answer any questions absolutely free of charge. You can find Alford & Clark online at www.injuredtexan.com or you can speak with an injury attorney now by calling 210-951-9467.