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Parents Sue Walmart and Hoverboard Maker Over Fire that Killed Daughters

A person standing on a hoverboard

The parents of two girls who were tragically killed in a house fire have filed a product liability lawsuit against a hoverboard manufacturer and Walmart. The lawsuit alleges that the defective hoverboard was charging in a bedroom and sparked the fatal fire.

According to an article in The Morning Call, the lawsuit states that the Jetson Rogue hoverboard was purchased by the family at a Walmart as a Christmas gift in 2018. It says the device had a “defective and unreasonably dangerous design” and that the manufacturer knew or should have known that it could short-circuit while charging, causing a hoverboard fire.

Dangerous and Defective Product Alleged

Jetson and Walmart still continued to market, sell, and advertise the hoverboard, the lawsuit alleges. The girls, Brianna Baer, 15, and Abigail Kaufman, 10, were trapped on the second floor of their home in Hellertown, Pennsylvania,  when the fire erupted on April 1. Their mother and father managed to escape and the father unsuccessfully tried to reach the girls, who succumbed to their injuries.

A week after the deadly fire, Northampton County officials concluded that it was electrical in nature. However, an attorney representing the Kaufmans said an independent investigation that “conducted a thorough cause-and-origin investigation with multiple experts” showed the hoverboard was to blame. The lawsuit says the hoverboard’s batteries were subject to short circuits and degradation, and that the product was not adequately tested prior to being distributed and sold.

It also alleges that the defendants deliberately “and consciously concealed their knowledge of these serious dangers.” The manufacturer’s manual and website don’t acknowledge the risk of the product. Jetson sells hoverboards, electrical bikes, and scooters. The Rogue Hoverboard, which sells for $170 is currently unavailable. It came with a lithium battery that had a two-hour charging time.

Hoverboard Fire: Injuries and Deaths

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 250 hoverboard fire incidents caused by overheating have been reported since 2015. In March 2017, two children – aged 2 and 10 – died in a house fire ignited by a hoverboard in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. CPSC estimates that there have been 13 burn injuries, three smoke inhalation injuries, and more than $4 million in property damage that has been linked to hoverboards that caught fire.

In order to know why hoverboards can be dangerous, it is important to understand precisely how they work. Hoverboards, which are also known as self-balancing boards, have an intricate series of parts to make them mobile. The device has four key components – a platform, a set of wheels, a battery-powered electric motor, gyroscopes, and sensors. Most hoverboards rely on a lithium-ion battery for power. While lithium-ion batteries are popular because of their small lightweight size and powerful output, their quality can vary greatly. Low-quality lithium-ion batteries often are not produced with stringent protocols and are more susceptible to structural failure, even if it’s not the consumer’s fault.

Safety Tips for Hoverboards

Due to the number of hoverboard fire incidents, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) offers the following tips for those who wish to buy hoverboards:

  • Choose a device that has the seal of an independent testing laboratory.
  • Read and follow all manufacturer’s instructions and directions. If you don’t understand directions, ask for help.
  • An adult should always be responsible for charging hoverboards.
  • Do not leave the hoverboard plugged in overnight.
  • Only use the charging cord that came with the hoverboard.
  • Stop using your hoverboard if you notice it overheating.
  • Don’t leave the hoverboard in extreme hot or cold conditions. This could affect the battery.

Signs of problems with the hoverboard may include leaking fluids, excessive heat or overheating, odor, sparking, and smoke. If you notice any of these signs, stop using the hoverboard at once and call 911. If it is safe to do so, move the device outdoors away from anything flammable.

If You Have Been Injured

If you or a loved one has been injured by a device that features a faulty design or manufacturing, it is important that you contact an experienced product liability lawyer right away. In some cases, after a fire, you may not immediately know the cause of the blaze. In such situations, it is still in your best interest to reach out to a personal injury lawyer who has experience handling product defect lawsuits. The attorney will be able to utilize the expertise of professionals to conduct an independent investigation and determine whether the incident was caused by a dangerous or defective product.

Victims in such cases may be able to seek compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, hospitalization, cost of rehabilitation, property damage, permanent injuries and disfigurement, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. If you have lost a loved one as the result of a defective product, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensation for medical and funeral expenses, lost future income, pain and suffering, and loss of love, care, and companionship. In these cases, you can never go wrong consulting an experienced personal injury lawyer who may be able to guide you during this difficult and challenging time.

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California Personal Injury Blog