Apple likely expected to profit at the expense of their rival Samsung’s recent misfortunes with the Galaxy Note 7 smartphones, yet they recently found themselves to be the target of a lawsuit due to an allegedly overheated iPhone 6. Stacie Reasonover, a woman from Nashville, Tennessee, has sued Apple due to burns and scarring she suffered when she fell asleep with an iPhone 6-Plus on her chest and the phone overheated. According to the Complaint, the woman suffered permanent scars, including a scar on her right breast, as a result of this incident. The product liability complaint against Apple, filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, alleges (1) strict liability for defective design and (2) negligent design and/or maintenance.
Given how inseparable people and their phones have become, it is not surprising that some people would fall asleep with a phone on top of them. Furthermore, it is not unusual for a person talking on a phone for a long period of time to feel the phone warming up, just as people with laptop computers in their laps for prolonged periods may feel the computer heat up. That a cell phone, especially while not in use, would overheat to the extent of causing burning and scarring, however, is much more serious and can cause highly visible and permanent injuries, including scarring.
When projecting the outcome of a product liability lawsuit like this, it would be helpful to know additional facts such as (1) how long the plaintiff had been using the phone before falling asleep, (2) how long she was asleep with the phone on her chest, (3) if she had experienced any problems with her phone overheating prior to this instance, and (4) how severe and/or permanent her injuries actually were.
First, if she had been using the phone for hours, and it had already begun to feel hot, then she may have been expected to put it away before falling asleep with it still on her. Second, if she had not noticed any overheating before falling asleep and had been asleep for only a short time before being burned, then the drastic overheating could clearly demonstrate the defectiveness of the iPhone. Third, if she had experienced overheating issues with her phone in the past, then Apple might argue that she should have returned her phone or had it repaired. Fourth, a major issue as in all personal injury cases is the actual injuries. The complaint alleges permanent scarring. What type of burn, whether first degree, second degree, or third degree, will greatly affect the plaintiff’s claim for damages.
Product liability cases like this are usually extremely fact specific as to how exactly the burns and scarring occurred and the full extent of the injuries sustained. Many complex product liability lawsuits often hinge on expert testimony. Qualified engineering experts may testify to prove defective design of a product, such as a cell phone. Even if Apple expects a defense verdict, one should expect them to vigorously defend this type of lawsuit, given the popularity of the iPhone series. Having to modify or recall a certain product could be a blow to the tech giant’s global product. Thus, if you have been injured by a defective product, it is critical to consult and retain a Tennessee product liability lawyer with the resources needed to retain competent experts and properly develop the case. For a free consultation on your case, call Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz at 1-800-LAW-4004.