Product liability lawsuits may be on the horizon for hoverboard manufactures, as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports at least 10 companies have recalled the devices.
There are two main dangers with the devices:
- Lithium-ion battery backs that pose a risk of overheating, smoking, fire and/ or exploding;
The CPSC refers to the devices as “self-balancing scooters,” though they are more commonly known as hoverboards, even though they don’t actually “hover,” as the name might suggest. The devices sailed into popularity over the last year, and were among the top holiday gifts this past season. Yet they have been associated with serious head injuries, broken bones and burns.
In Florida, the Sun-Sentinel reported by the end of December, there had been at least 40 visits to hospitals as a result of hoverboard injuries in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. Authorities believe the actual number of injuries and related incidents were vastly under-reported. A quick check through the Twitter hashtag #hoverboardfail turns up thousands of results showing epic, back-breaking falls and collisions.
Still, it was the risk of fire that prompted most of the manufacturers to pull the plug. Already, some retailers such as Amazon and Target had pulled the item from sales months ago.
The CPSC announced the recalls, totaling some 500,000 devices, which had been the cause of at least 60 documented fires. The recall includes two of the leading manufacturers, Swagway and Razor. The commission didn’t indicate what percentage of hoverboards the recall affected, though safety advocates indicate this accounts for a “significant” portion of the market.
The fires reportedly occurred in more than 20 states, causing at least $2 million in property damage. This hazard has garnered the most attention from the commission, although representatives say that since this recall, they will now start examining the risk of falls and other accidents, Investigators suspect there is a design flaw in the boards that cause users to lose their balance and suffer serious personal injuries in falls.
Ascertaining what safety criteria these products should meet has been tough because there isn’t actually a federal safety standard in place. There are some voluntary electrical requirements proposed by a standards-setting and testing organization, but there is nothing in the statutes that requires manufacturers to meet these specifications. Of course, those that don’t may be opening themselves up for greater liability in the event of an injury. The CPSC has urged consumers to return hoverboards that don’t comply with the standards set forth by Underwriters Laboratories.
Part of the problem in tracking down which hoverboards might be unsafe – and which companies might be held liable for that – is the fact that many of these boards were sold at pop-up kiosks at colleges or inside malls.
Swagway for its part has promised consumers a $200 credit toward a new, compliant hoverboard, or else they can choose to have a better battery installed. However, if the CPSC is right and there is a design flaw that increases the fall risk, a replacement battery isn’t going to fix the problem.
If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at (888) 751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
Fire Risk Prompts Safety Agency to Recall Some Hoverboards, July 6, 2016, By Rachel Abrams, The New York Times
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Liability Waiver Overcome With Evidence of Gross Negligence, Aug. 23, 2016, West Palm Beach Hoverboard Injury Lawyer Blog