Products Liability Law Daily Apple, Inc. faces suit for fire allegedly caused by defective tablet
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Monday, June 24, 2019

Apple, Inc. faces suit for fire allegedly caused by defective tablet

By Georgia D. Koutouzos, J.D.

The device’s lithium batteries are inherently dangerous and capable of igniting spontaneously, complaint contends.

The operator of a residential rental complex in New Jersey and its insurer filed suit against Apple, Inc., alleging that a fire that resulted in the death of a tenant and destroyed one of the complex’s rental units was caused by the tenant’s defective tablet device. Demanding a jury trial, the complaint asserts claims against Apple for strict products liability and ultrahazardous responsibility based on the argument that the at-issue device’s lithium batteries are inherently dangerous and are capable of igniting a fire even if properly used within the tablet (Union Management LLC v. Apple, Inc., June 20, 2019, Vazquez, J.).

Union Management LLC owns and operates Colonial Heights Apartments, located in Parsippany, New Jersey. Bradley Ireland, the tenant in Unit 4-F, apparently owned a tablet device manufactured by Apple, Inc. that ignited and caused a fire that destroyed the unit and resulted in his death.

Product defect. Union Management and its insurer filed suit against Apple, asserting that the fire had been caused by a defect in the subject tablet specifically affecting the device’s battery pack. According to the complaint, the tablet was unreasonably dangerous and unsafe for its intended purpose by reason of defects in its design and/or manufacture, and/or a lack of adequate warnings that existed when Apple placed the device into the stream of commerce and/or sold "updates" to the device. As such, Apple is strictly liable pursuant to the Restatement (Second) of Torts Sec. 402A and the New Jersey Products Liability Act.

Ultrahazardous responsibility. Furthermore, the product contained lithium batteries specifically determined by Apple to be necessary for the operation of the tablet, the complaint maintained, arguing that the batteries are inherently dangerous and capable of igniting and causing a fire even if properly used within the device. Apple knew or should have known of the dangerous propensities of lithium batteries and their use in electronic devices such as the subject tablet; therefore, the company is responsible for all fire damage caused by the lithium batteries because of their status as an ultrahazardous mechanism capable of causing damage even when reasonably used by products containing such batteries.

Damages sought. Accordingly, the complaint is demanding a jury trial and is seeking compensation for the following: (1) all monies paid by the apartment complex’s insurer (for which it became subrogated to the complex’s rights), inclusive of the insurance policy’s deductible; (2) interest; (3) attorney fees; and (4) costs of suit.

The case is No. 2:19-cv-14068-JMV-JBC.

Attorneys: Allan Maitlin (Beinhaker, Maitlin & Goodgold) for Union Management LLC.

Companies: Apple, Inc.

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