back to article Bombs Huawei... Smartphone exploded in my daughter's pocket, seriously burning her, claims dad in lawsuit

Huawei Technologies USA, the Plano, Texas-based arm of the Chinese telecom giant, was sued in Missouri on Thursday over an alleged phone explosion. The lawsuit was filed in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, south of St. Louis, in the name of the father of an unnamed female minor said to be the victim of the accident. "On December 24 …

  1. Efer Brick

    I've got a H-bomb

    In my pocket, should I be worried.

    Concerned,

    Fukushima

  2. imanidiot Silver badge

    Original charger (or at least a good one)?

    If they charged it using one of those cheap dollar store/walmart/shit-ly made in China chargers then this is quite possibly one of the outcomes. There's only so much a phones voltage spike protection can do against the noisy, spiky output of the really cheap chargers. Be kind to your electronics and use something decent.

    1. AIBailey

      Re: Original charger (or at least a good one)?

      Not sure how a cheap charger has anything to do with this, as her phone was in her pocket at the time.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Original charger (or at least a good one)?

        Well, that, at least is the claim.

        1. Jedit
          Mushroom

          "Well, that, at least is the claim."

          Assuming the physical damage has been verified by a doctor, it would be a lot worse if the phone wasn't in the girl's pocket. The explosion would have to have been a lot larger, and if the phone can be definitively traced as the source of the blast... well, the Note 7 farrago is going to look trivial in comparison to Huawei selling $800 hand grenades.

          1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            Re: "Well, that, at least is the claim."

            Big assumption in this case. Not wanting to trivialise it but, in the absence of any other similar incidents, I'm inclined to be a little sceptical on this claim: the US legal system more or less invites this kind of suit.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: "Well, that, at least is the claim."

              "Big assumption in this case. Not wanting to trivialise it but, in the absence of any other similar incidents, I'm inclined to be a little sceptical on this claim: the US legal system more or less invites this kind of suit."

              Likewise, but I was more concerned about the description of the injuries and the supposition that the claim is likely be only $25,000. Either the injury is very, very minor or there's a comma and group of 3 zeros mission from the figure.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "Well, that, at least is the claim."

            Yeah, I'll bet it was really the white phosphorus hand genade she had in her pocket, not the phone. Geez. Girls in the US wear jeans that are too tight, and they have small pockets. If she had her phone in her pocket, it was the source.

      2. DuncanLarge Bronze badge

        Re: Original charger (or at least a good one)?

        The battery looks to have shorted internally resulting in a thermal runaway.

        This can be caused by a cheap charger with dirty output that the phone is not/is failing to supress.

        It can also be simply a faulty battery that was growing a short ever since it was first charged.

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: Original charger (or at least a good one)?

          It can also be caused by physical damage to the battery such as bending it by putting it in a jean pocket.

          And that is a fault of the designer of the end equipment; the battery compartment should be designed to provide adequate protection to the battery according to the Material Safety Data Sheets that I read for Lithium batteries many years ago.

          One can argue that liability is shared due to the fact that the user (possibly) damaged it, but the designer/manufacturer has a good share of the responsibility.

      3. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Original charger (or at least a good one)?

        Bad chargers damage batteries over time to the point where they can then burst into flame with minor deformation or electrical loads. So yes, it's very relevant.

      4. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Original charger (or at least a good one)?

        as her phone was in her pocket at the time.

        Which pocket? Front or back?

        It must be me but most of the time I saw a female putting a mobile phone in a "pocket" it's normally the back pocket ... and then they sit down. *Crrrrrrunch!*

    2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: Original charger (or at least a good one)?

      Once a lithium battery has been damaged by too rapid charging and is forming internal dendrites, it might not take much - say a bending force in a pocket - to set things off.

      Having had to do some military R&D work involving lithium batteries, I would never put a phone in a trouser pocket. Especially as the weak point in many phone bodies - the side holes for the buttons - tends to be about half way down the battery.

      1. Mike Moyle Silver badge

        Re: Original charger (or at least a good one)?

        ^^^^ This. ^^^^

        I can't recall a single* "my phone blew up in my pocket" story where the phone was stated as having been in a shirt/jacket pocket. It always seems to be in a constantly-flexing trouser pocket. The article here doesn't specify location but, if I were a betting man, I'd bet that the damage claim for "reduced mobility" would be a clue that this was another one stuck in (tight/skinny?) jeans.

        * Doesn't mean that there HASN'T been one, of course; just that I don't recall ever having seen one.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Original charger (or at least a good one)?

          I notice phones in ladies tight jean pockets and am amazed that the phones last as long as they do. With every manufacturer trying to see how thing (and flimsy) they can make their phones, there is almost no rigidity left.

          I agree with another comment that points out that a statistical universe of one for this model of phone going "bang" doesn't make a good case that the maker is negligent. Most people plug their junk into any old power source they can find. The girl may have an OEM charger plugged in next to her bed, but what about one at her friend's house or in the car, etc.

          I can't beg mommy for a new phone every month so I don't abuse mine. Teenagers think nothing of sitting on theirs and tossing them around. Maybe some good will come out of this. The girl will be a bit phone shy going forward and won't get hit by a bus wandering around neck deep in her phone.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Gimp

            Re: Original charger (or at least a good one)?

            "Most people plug their junk into any old power source they can find."

            Ouch! Is that one of the more niche channels on PornHub? Or do you subscribe to Torturers'R'Us?

      2. TechnicalBen Silver badge

        Re: Original charger (or at least a good one)?

        I do take my risk in my pocket. With my nice sturdy case, glass front and back, if the thing does not expand like a balloon, it should launch me into orbit instead!

        (Risk of fire or glass is then partially mitigated... and I am reminded my parents and grandparents did much worse and survived. So I expect the phone is the least of my worries. )

  3. Nick Kew Silver badge

    $25k?

    Extreme, permanent injuries, loss of mobility? Surely they'd be seeking several orders of magnitude more than $25k. Dammit, would a US trial lawyer get out of bed for a mere $25k?

    Did you mean to say at least $25m? Or that the plaintiff's case looked like a tall story from the start?

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: $25k?

      I'd get myself a bit of burn every day for $25k.

      Mind you, with permanent disfigurement [...] physical immobility and crap I'd expect that the mobile phone has torn one of her legs off. At the very least. That allows for one conclusion only: plaintiff is very modest and humble.

      1. Jimmy2Cows

        Re: $25k?

        Scarring, pain when moving. Both can be permantent. Hard to say the extent without more information, and things are often exagerated early on to try to scare the defendant to settle early.

    2. Fatman Silver badge

      Re: $25k?

      That amount may be the minimum amount required to file a case for jury trial. In many states, low dollar amounts (aka 'small claims') are heard by judges only. Who knows what damages her attorneys will present at trial.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: $25k?

        "Small Claims" in the US are about $2,500 or so depending on the state. A personal injury case is something the plaintiff wants a jury for. They need to be able to play on their emotions where a judge might be way too matter-of-fact.

        I'm not sure the attorney did a very good job at estimating a quick settlement amount. Asking for $50k or even more might still have met with quick check and NDA's all around.

  4. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Chemistry

    because lithium-ion batteries aren't always manufactured with enough care to contain the stored energy they hold. Research into safer chemistry has been going on for years with no commercially practical results yet

    Li-Ion batteries are inherent fire risks and, hence, carry warnings. There's not much you can do on the chemical side, all the work is done on the packaging and electronics to reduce the risk of exposure to air or getting too hot.

    The chemical research is mainly looking for solutions with higher energy density and/or solid state batteries.

    1. jvf

      Not all chemistries are created equal

      Not true.

      There are several reactions possible and a popular non exploding one for storage battery use is the lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery, also called LFP battery (with "LFP" standing for "lithium ferrophosphate"(Def. from wikipedia). This will be my choice when I go off grid. I believe Tesla’s PowerWall is the exploding type. If so, would you want one strapped to your living room wall?

      1. hoola

        Re: Not all chemistries are created equal

        That is correct BUT the big driver for most batteries is the highest power density and then then depending on application the lowest weight.

        Lithium ion and the various polymer derivative batteries are very light for the power density. Lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) is significantly heaver and more bulky for the same power density. You can put them in a phone but then no one would buy them unless it was mandated as a safety change that every manufacturer had to abide by,

    2. 100113.1537

      Re: Chemistry

      Phone batteries from China are not being carried on aircraft anymore - with the safety issue being listed as the reason. Not sure who started this (airlines or regulators), but getting phones and batteries from DX delivered to here in Canada has become very slow. The last I heard, they established a warehouse in Europe and shipped from there - although how that made it any safer I don't know!

  5. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Expect Huawei to counter with a fake battery claim.

  6. Big_Boomer

    Conspiracy

    Huawei again? It's a CONSPIRACY! Ban anything Chinese from entering the western hemisphere at once. Oh wait, are ANY smartphones actually made in the USA any more? No, guess it's Korean/Taiwanese for y'all from now on. <LOL>

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Conspiracy

      Smart phones have never been made in the US. There is no capability to build electronics that small and complex in quantity.

      1. RobThBay

        Re: Conspiracy

        Blackberry used to make some of their phones in Mexico. My BB Passport was made in Mexico.

  7. _LC_
    Stop

    Oh, Huawei is sooo bad and Maduro is staaaarving the population...

    It's not that it isn't true, it's just that this is normally not being reported like this (attempting to kill a company).

    Pick your favorite brand and add the terms "battery explodes", doing a web-search. Just two examples:

    iPhone:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEVglIJC5o0

    iPhone battery explodes in the middle of a store | New York Post

    Motorola:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhSZK43ovpU

    Motorola Droid 2 cell phone EXPLODES in mans ear

    ...

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: Oh, Huawei is sooo bad and Maduro is staaaarving the population...

      You missed "And Samsung is competing too successfully with Apple."

      Yes the Samsung problem was real and much bigger than the other cases, but the phones were not exploding. They were getting hot, cracking off their cases and catching fire.

      Faced with a choice of being next to something that really does explode - e.g. a hand grenade - and a phone with a malfunctioning battery, which would you prefer?

  8. MMR

    Desperate

    Batteries in portable devices cause fire on regular basis but since it's Huawei it has to be in the news. Anything that makes them look bad nowadays is worth reporting on, right?

    1. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: Desperate

      Given that when this happened to Apple/Motorola/Samsung (as mentioned above) it was all over the news then I don't think it's unfair to mention when it happens to Huawei.

      1. MMR

        Re: Desperate

        One device. One.

  9. drewzilla79
    Joke

    C'mon y'all...

    Another less tinfoil-hatted explanation of this story is that it is literally the only thing happening in Cape Girardeau, MO that doesn't involve banjos or pickup trucks. The "Bootheel" is not an area know for its newsworthiness.

  10. dnicholas Bronze badge

    There's only so much protection you can put into lithium cells without energy density falling off a cliff. I think with the push to bigger cells and thinner devices, all manufacturers have to put in the fine print *may explode for, like, no reason*

    The cynic in me wonders if the phone was completely undamaged and not hooked up to a portable charger or something though. The whole truth is never heard in court.

  11. Rob Daglish

    They want sued...

    ...for releasing a phone with such a stupid name anyways.

    1. _LC_
      Angel

      Re: They want sued...

      Yes, that you thinkered very good. Sank you.

  12. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921

    ♫ Come on baby light my Huaweier ♫

  13. Alistair Dabbs

    Explosion in my pocket

    I’ve experienced an explosion in my pocket. I also own a Huawei smartphone. The two are not related.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Explosion in my pocket

      But....enquiring minds want to know - were you just pleased to see her?

  14. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Li-Ion is worrying

    Had a neighbour pop in recently, asking if I could recover her photos off her laptop hard drive.

    "What's the problem?"

    "The laptop blew up"

    "What, you mean it stopped working?"

    "No, there were two loud bangs and smoke and flames started coming out of it"

    "Ah, right. Bring it in and I'll have a look"

    Yep, one seriously blown up *replacement* no-name battery pack! And a very impressively melted and burned laptop. Thankfully the flames hadn't spread too far and the HDD was undamaged. I now have a very nice 'Exhibit A' for my next computer safety talk! Interestingly insurance covered damage to the table but wouldn't replace the laptop. Wear & Tear I assume.

  15. DougS Silver badge

    If this is just a one off

    This lawsuit should be tossed. There should have to be a clear pattern of issues, like there was with the Note 7, before a court will entertain such lawsuits. Even ignoring the possibility she used a dodgy charger or the phone had sustained some damage from a drop, being in her back pocket and getting sat on all the time, etc. we simply don't have the technology to have a 100% safety record for lithium batteries. Some very tiny percentage will explode or catch fire without there being a defect in the device.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: If this is just a one off

      Nope.

      A one-off badly manufactured thingy would still mean they badly manufactured the thingy and caused harm, for which they would be liable.

      If proven to a sufficient standard.

      What'll actually happen is that they'll settle out of court for some undisclosed sum without admitting liability.

      1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: If this is just a one off

        It depends on the "thingy". Everything has an AQL. There is a balance between realistic assessment of safety and requirement for absolute safety; in the latter case no sane manufacturer would put anything on the market. People die of food poisoning; cars occasionally catch fire. A fault is not necessarily evidence of defective manufacture. Frequently it arises because of defective use.

        If the US didn't have such an insanely expensive medical system, and a surplus of lawyers with huge student debt, I suspect there would be far fewer of the high profile cases.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: If this is just a one off

          Yes, they do. And if due to faulty manufacture, the seller, importer or manufacturer* is held liable for the damages. They usually settle out of court if it seems likely that they would lose, so you never hear about it.

          Food is probably the market where this happens the most often, usually with restaurants. If minor, the customer usually accepts a free meal or an apology. If severe, the business's public liability insurance takes on the defense of the case and decides whether to settle or defend.

          If the business doesn't have PLI, then yes, they do go out of business instantly. Especially as in many places/industries it's illegal to operate without it.

          In the case of cars, the insurance company is usually the damaged party (they paid out to the consumer). You'll never hear about the way some back office staff recovered some percentage of your payout, as they'll increase your premiums either way.

          Punitive damages are different. Punitive damages are only given if malice or incompetence are sufficiently proven, not accidental one-offs.

          *Which one mostly depends on jurisdiction. In the EU it's usually the seller.

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