Katrina Williams purchased an LG lithium battery from Vape Easy, which purchased it from Madvapes. After the battery exploded in her pocket, Williams sued LG, Mad Vapes, and Vape Easy in a New York (Queens County) court for her injuries. The defendants filed summary judgment motions seeking their dismissal from the lawsuit. LG supported its motion with the testimony of an expert witness.
Facts of the Case
Williams purchased the battery for use in her vape unit. She carried the battery in her pocket because she intended to recharge it.
The president of Vape Easy contended that he sold the battery in its original packaging, as he received it from Madvapes. Each package contains two batteries.
Madvapes purchased the batteries from an LG battery distributor. Each box it purchased contained 25 packages. Madvapes took the packages out of the box, affixed a barcode to each package, and returned the packages to their box before shipping them to customers.
According to Madvapes, the battery was recommended for the vape unit by the distributor. According to LG, the battery is intended for use in power tools. The chief technical officer of Madvapes was aware of other instances of battery “malfunctions,” which is presumably an euphemism for explosions. Some of that awareness stemmed from other lawsuits.
The court refused to dismiss Madvapes from the lawsuit. The court decided that a jury should decide whether Madvapes knew or should have known that the batteries were unsuitable for use in a vape unit and whether it should have warned consumers about the dangers associated with the battery.
LG’s Expert Evidence
LG asked to be dismissed because its battery was intended for use in power tools, not for personal use. Since power tools are often employed for personal use, the distinction is difficult to fathom.
More importantly, the team leader of LG’s quality department admitted that no warnings about the unsuitability of the batteries for “personal use” (whatever that might mean) were printed on the boxes containing the packaged batteries, on the packages, or on the batteries themselves.
LG relied on the testimony of an expert witness in support of its summary judgment motion. The expert concluded that the battery exploded because the positive and negative terminals were bridged. LG thus claimed that the battery was not defective, but that Williams handled it improperly.
Trial Court’s Decision
The trial judge decided that LG’s defense will need to be evaluated by a jury. The expert did not address the likelihood that the battery would explode while carried in a consumer’s pocket. Nor did the expert explain why a consumer who purchases the battery for a power tool would carry it differently than a consumer who purchases the battery for a vape unit.
It is not usual to place a battery in a pocket while carrying it to a recharging device. Pockets might be expected to contain coins or other metal objects that could bridge the battery terminals, creating the risk of an explosion.
A jury could reasonably find that LG should have foreseen that a consumer would carry the battery in a pocket, regardless of the reason for which the battery was purchased. A jury could also reasonably find that printing a warning on the battery or its packaging would protect consumers who are unaware of the danger of bridging the battery’s terminals.
Accordingly, the judge decided that Williams was entitled to present her case to a jury. LG will also be entitled to present its expert testimony in an effort to persuade the jury that it was not liable for failing to warn consumers that its batteries might explode if the terminals are bridged.