back to article Apple sued over fondleslab death blaze: iPad battery blamed for deadly New Jersey apartment fire

Apple is being sued Stateside over allegations that a faulty iPad battery caused a fire which resulted in a New Jersey man's death. The case is being brought by an insurance company that is acting on behalf of the property management business responsible for the man's residence. Bradley Ireland was living in an apartment block …

  1. Blockchain commentard Silver badge

    Sad but I hope his family is also suing the property management business if they didn't have working fire detectors in his apartment.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >Sad but I hope his family is also suing the property management business if they didn't have working fire detectors in his apartment.

      WTF has that come from? The fire was in the early hours, other residents in the block were woken by the fire alarm and everyone except him got out safely - he was also evacuated but died later in hospital.

    2. DougS Silver badge

      How do we know they didn't have working fire detectors? Lithium battery fires ignite very quickly, especially if it was sitting on something else that catches fire quickly like many couches and carpets.

      These lawsuits are always kind of dumb though, everyone should know by now that nothing containing a lithium battery can be made 100% safe so it should be "buyer beware" as far as fires unless they can prove a specific manufacturing defect. You don't sue BP over gasoline catching fire.

      1. Muscleguy Silver badge

        It might be possible to prove or at least bring into the case the possibility that the guy had mistreated the fondleslab in question. Dropping it on the wrong corner could potentially distort the battery causing a short. Did it for eg have a protective case? If not then either case dismissed or payout massively reduced.

        If he didn't disable the 'report performance to apple' in the settings Cupertino might just have accelerator evidence of a prang. Anyone know if such data is or is not routinely sniffed under such settings?

        1. mevets

          If it requires a protective case to make it safe for reasonable use -- I am pretty sure reasonable use includes dropping it -- then it needs to have that protective case affixed permanently to it by the manufacturer. A conclusion that a normal wear and tear could burn down your apartment and kill you would likely result in a massively larger payout, accompanied by a widespread product recall, and likely many more lawsuits.

          Even in my far (far, far, far) less litigious country, that would not fly.

      2. Nunyabiznes Silver badge

        @DougS

        Upvote, but a can of gas can sit on the living room floor indefinitely without exploding assuming it is stored in the correct container and there is no external ignition source.

        Many lithium batteries have failed while being used exactly in the manner prescribed, because of either poor engineering or poor quality control driven by cost concerns of the manufacturer. That being said, it is still a vanishingly small percentage that have actually failed.

        1. Muscleguy Silver badge

          Strong incident sunlight perhaps lensed by a freak something on a window? how long will the can hold out in that configuration?

          It's a bit like what do you call a flask with LN2 in it and the top clamped down? A bomb. I used to go get LN2 in smaller flasks and the tops would be clamped down, for transport back to the lab but NEVER whilst on the bench. Pit it down, let the clips off.

          Any volatile liquid which can go gaseous in higher temperatures in a closed container can go boom under the right circumstances.

          Also what is this can made of? Rust vulnerable mild steel by any chance? Or UV and time devolving plastic?

        2. DougS Silver badge

          Many lithium batteries have failed while being used exactly in the manner prescribed, because of either poor engineering or poor quality control driven by cost concerns of the manufacturer.

          And many have failed while being used exactly in the manner prescribed, despite proper engineering and great quality control. It doesn't matter what the manufacturer of a device using lithium batteries does, if you sell enough of them you WILL have some of them explode and/or catch fire even if everything was done right.

          A can of gas isn't "stored properly" if it is in your living room. There's a reason why it has recommendations for storage, filling and usage, and despite all that STILL would be against every building and fire code to store in it in your living room. Because it is known to be dangerous. Fortunately we don't use gasoline powered appliances so there is no reason to have gasoline in your living space, but no such luck with lithium batteries.

          One has to wonder that if we had known of their issues before they appeared on the scene if consumer safety legislation wouldn't have banned them for use in devices intended be held in the hands or used in the home. I'd still have my lithium battery powered hedge trimmer that's stored in the garage, but my iPhone would use something else and probably be twice as thick.

          1. eionmac

            Swedish camp stove gasoline (petrol) fuelled as back up against power outage in house in attached outbuilding ,but used on outdoor concrete path.,

  2. msknight Silver badge

    Apple's design is slipping

    Watching Louis Rosmann's videos of Apple's board design, it doesn't surprise me. The most obvious example is where there used to be a ground line on the macbook display ribbons, between the high voltage and signal wires... but they did away with that line, meaning that the signal traces were being melted by the close proximity to the higher voltage trace on occasions.

    I can't work out why Apple, of all companies, hasn't corrected design elements like this after being called out by the likes of Rossman.

    There's a chance that this fire wasn't a fault of the battery itself, but the design of the device. Grab the popcorn, this is going to be a good one.

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: Apple's design is slipping

      Sorry, Dave from eevblog says no; the macbook backlight design may not have been impossible to improve a bit more (or indeed slightly less ideal than older versions), but it was by no means unreasonable - actually, it was perfectly within spec.

      1. UncleNick

        Re: Apple's design is slipping

        It's not that the design is "unreasonable" or "out of spec", it's the use case of that design that's causing the concern.

        The backlight voltage line being directly next to a signal line doesn't melt traces or cause any sort of problems... until you let a user get near it and (inevitably) spill liquid onto the device. At that point the liquid is allowed by the case layout to reach the connector where it either directly shorts the backlight voltage to the signal line, or corrodes the connector leading to the same result.

        So what? Well the signal lines don't have any protection built into them, and as they lead straight back to the GPU in the CPU on the newer models - your entire laptop is immediately dead.

        Which would be easily avoided by, say, not putting the backlight voltage next to the signal lines?

  3. Paul Herber Silver badge

    AOL

    I can foresee the scrap dealers in the future ... Any Old Lithium? Any Old Lithium?

  4. mihares
    Windows

    Pedal power or nothing

    Since they claim that Li-ion batteries "were inherently dangerous and were capable of igniting and causing a fire, even if properly in use within the tablet."... are they basically suing Apple for having one in the iPad?

    Interesting... I mean: not surprising since in the USA you can sue BMW (and win) for not haveing a loud enough alarm to remind you that you parked your car on a slope and you should pull the handbrake, but still.

    If this sets a precedent, before you know the yanks will only be able to use pedal-powered... everything that can't be constantly plugged into the mains.

    Nice move.

  5. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Flame

    We won't be truly safe from incidents like these..

    ..until either there is a better battery technology with the same energy density, or manufacturers build better containment into their devices. (Possibly some of them do, I don't know) But as this would add cost, as well as weight and possibly bulk to devices, it probably won't happen.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: We won't be truly safe from incidents like these..

      "until either there is a better battery technology with the same energy density"

      One wonders if it's less the chemical composition and more the very energy density we week from them? If so, then no design we can make will ever make it safe because the very thing we desire is what makes it dangerous. Sort of like having access to fire.

      "or manufacturers build better containment into their devices"

      Some things can't hope to be contained. Like bombs or anything with that kind of explosive potential. Heck, even a closed container left in the sun has that potential.

  6. MJB7 Bronze badge

    AOL

    The lawyer *probably* got the AOL address back in the Mesolithic (early 90's), and doesn't want to change it because it's in too many people's address books.

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