A cross-country JetBlue flight was diverted recently after a reported laptop fire.
On May 30, 2017, JetBlue Flight 915 was en route from New York to San Francisco when passengers complained of smoke emitting from a carry-on bag. Inspection revealed that the bag contained a laptop that had caught fire, prompting an emergency diversion to Grand Rapids, MI. The airplane, with its 158 passengers and crew members, safely landed at Gerald Ford International Airport at or around 8 p.m. Authorities stated that the laptop fire had been extinguished by the time the aircraft landed.
Concerns About Proposed Regulation
Though no injuries were reported, this incident, along with the inherent risk of laptops overheating, has raised concerns about proposed regulation banning carry-on laptops on flights. In March, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) implemented a ban on electronics larger than cell phones in the cabins of nonstop flights to the US from ten airports in North Africa and the Middle East, citing fears that terrorists could smuggle explosive devices in consumer items. There has also apparently been discussion of expanding the ban to include nonstop flights from Europe.
However, many experts have expressed worry about consigning laptops to the cargos of planes instead of the cabins, arguing that the safety risks could outweigh the risks of terrorism. Specifically, they argue that storing a laptop in an area that is unobserved during a flight could result in a large fire that could not be contained and might result in the loss of an aircraft.
Why is a potential laptop fire such a cause for concern? The issue has less to do with the laptops themselves and more to do with the lithium-ion batteries that power them.
Lithium-Ion Batteries and Laptop Fires
Lithium-ion batteries power a majority of our consumer electronic devices. Why do they so frequently explode? According to analyst Claire Curry at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the explosive potential comes from the lithium itself.
“Lithium is very reactive, quite dangerous, and not stable on its own,” said Ms. Curry. “So lithium-ion batteries combine the lithium with other metals to try to stabilize the lithium, while not reducing the energy density.”
As such, lithium-ion batteries have a natural tendency to overheat, often with very dangerous results for consumers. Approximately 660 million lithium-ion cells were produced in 2012.
Due to the prevalence of lithium-ion batteries, laptops are not the only devices with a significant risk of self-immolation. In 2016, Samsung recalled its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone after 35 of them reportedly caught fire or exploded. When a reissued version of the device also showed a tendency to self-ignite, Samsung took the product off the market permanently.
In addition to the Galaxy Note 7, other lithium-ion-powered electronics that have reportedly caught fire include hoverboards and E-Cigarettes, about which GWC Injury Lawyers is currently involved in international, multi-party litigation.
Product Liability Litigation
Have you been injured because of a laptop fire, or by some other lithium-ion-powered device? If so, please contact the product liability experts at GWC Injury Lawyers today.
GWC prosecutes a wide variety of personal injury cases throughout Illinois, including those involving product liability, auto collisions, workers’ compensation, construction accidents, and medical malpractice. If you or your loved one has been injured, from a defective product or by some other means, please contact our office for a free legal consultation to see if you may be eligible for financial compensation for your injuries. Call our office 24/7 at (312) 464-1234 or click here to chat with one of our representatives today.