Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 7, expected to be one of the company’s flagship smartphone products, has a problem: A defect in the battery can cause the phone to overheat, smoke, melt, and even burst into flame. After at least ninety-two reported incidents in the United States alone, including setting a man’s pants on fire, starting a South Carolina house fire, and setting a car ablaze, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced that Samsung was recalling about one million devices.
Samsung has traced the problem to a manufacturing issue which could lead to an improper battery contact. This, in turn, could lead to the phone overheating and, in extreme cases, catching fire.
Almost immediately, Samsung offered users of the Galaxy Note 7 a replacement which did not have this problem. Earlier unsafe models were pulled from the shelves, and consumers were told to only purchase new units that were marked as safe after the date of the recall.
However, there were almost immediate follow-on problems, even with the new “safe” units. A Chinese user reported his replacement unit caught fire, while in one of the most alarming incidents, a Southwest Airlines flight was evacuated after a passenger’s “safe” Galaxy Note 7 began to emit smoke. Samsung and the CPSC are investigating that incident to confirm that a new unit was involved and, if so, understand why. Breaking news on October 10 indicates that Samsung has suspended production of the Galaxy Note 7, which might spell the end for that device.
Samsung didn’t have a good September. The Galaxy Note 7 recall was announced near the start of the month, and by its end there was another potential recall in the works for a completely unrelated product. There have been numerous reports that some of the company’s top-loading washing machines have, under certain conditions, shaken themselves apart, virtually exploding during use. A short statement from the CPSC cautions consumers to use only the delicate cycle when bulky items are in the machine. Samsung hasn’t yet issued a recall, and no one has been injured, but some of the stories are terrifying.
Most manufacturers go to great lengths to make certain that their products carry no risk to consumers. It’s in their best interest as releasing an unsafe product into the market can not only undermine confidence in that manufacturer and damage its image, it can also lead to lawsuits and fines by regulators which can ruin even a large corporation. The fallout is even more intense when a company is found to have knowingly marketed a product which could cause injury, such as in the case of big tobacco, which led to a more than $360 billion settlement agreement.
By all accounts, Samsung has generally been a responsible firm in the past. However, the situation with the Galaxy Note 7 could still hurt the company greatly. Volkswagen, which also had a good reputation, is still dealing with the confidence and financial problems caused when it was revealed that the company had systematically cheated on emissions tests for its so-called “clean diesel” vehicles.
At Craig Swapp & Associates, we have experience with product liability law, which includes seeking restitution for defective products. The situation with the Galaxy Note 7 is not unique. Defective products are released every day, and sometimes they cause harm.
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