Cell phone users may want to think twice before leaving their cell phones on while boarding a flight. A recent article from USA Today reported that passengers had to evacuate a Southwest Airlines plane before takeoff in Louisville, Kentucky because of a smoking cell phone. One of the passenger’s cell phones overheated, and then started smoking, causing the evacuation. Thankfully, there were no reported injuries among the flight crew or the 75 passengers.
This latest incident with the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone follows other issues Samsung has had, prompting recalls because of safety hazards. Though Samsung did not confirm whether the phone in question on the Southwest plane was a new one, consumers may be wary of all Galaxy Note 7 phones due to this incident and a recent recall by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Given the ubiquitous nature of cell phones and the exponential growth in recent years of cell phone users, the potential for products liability claims could pose a serious problem for Samsung if the issues with the Galaxy Note 7 are not quickly resolved.
Four important factors in product liability cases are (1) whether the product in question was used as intended, (2) whether the product’s potential danger was obvious, (3) whether there was an adequate warning about the potential danger (particularly, if the danger was not obvious), and of course (4) whether there were injuries resulting from the defective product.
In this instance, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 seemed to be defective. First, given the multi-faceted nature of cell phones (ironically, using the phone to actually talk to someone is no longer the most common use of a cell phone for most people), it is hard to imagine how a reasonable person could use a cell phone in a way that is not intended for consumers.
Second, unless a cell phone is near a hot object or combustible substance, people do not expect their cell phones to start smoking, catch on fire, or explode.
Third, a cell phone does not present an obvious danger of smoking or catching on fire. While reading the fine print of a user guide’s warning section, one may find a warning to not leave a cell phone near a hot object, but he or she probably is not familiar with warnings about leaving a cell phone on in other situations, including in a plane. While airline passengers are familiar with the litany of pre-flight instructions, including to turn off all cell phones during takeoff and landing, they may reasonably expect the warning to be related to not disturbing flight signals and not because of a fire hazard. From now on, however, this warning will likely be added to all flights. Incidentally, the same USA Today article stated that the Federal Aviation Administration gave such a cell phone hazard warning to flyers last month.
Finally, serious injuries due to exploding bits of a cell phone or a fire caused by a cell phone are not difficult to imagine. In the Southwest Airlines flight, there were no explosions, fire, or injuries. As the old adage goes, however, where there’s smoke, there’s a fire, and Samsung will no doubt be eager to resolve the Galaxy Note 7 issues rather than wait to see what could happen.
If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of a defective product, contact the experienced product liability attorneys at Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz. You can call us toll-free at 1-800-LAW-4004. We are the largest Tennessee-based personal injury law firm.