Recent reports have indicated that some headphones may be prone to explosion and burning. It appears that the main culprit is the lithium-ion batteries that power the headphones. These batteries are the components of some headphones that can explode and catch fire.

One widely publicized case involved a woman’s wireless headphones. They ignited and burned while she was wearing them on a long-distance airplane flight. The explosion caused the woman to suffer burns, smoke inhalation and singed hair; it also caused significant disruption to the passengers and crew on the flight.

Battery explosions, especially in wireless headphone sets that rely on rechargeable, lithium-ion batteries, are usually what initiates these incidents. In accidents of this kind, serious injuries are possible and may include:

  • Burn injuries, mostly on a person’s face and hands;
  • Scarring or disfigurement;
  • Chemical burns.

Accidents can occur when the headphones have been used for long periods of time or when the batteries are charging. Experts reportedly warn that lithium-ion batteries do not do well when they are subjected to pressure or poked with sharp objects. So, a person should take care not to sit on the headphones, drop them down the side of an airplane seat, or step on them, as any of these actions might physically damage the lithium-ion battery, increasing the risk of explosion and fire.

Of course, accidentally dropping or stepping on headphones is something that any person can do, and if these ordinary accidents cause the batteries to explode and ignite, then the batteries or other parts of the headphones may well be defective.

Experts say that the design of lithium-ion batteries makes them susceptible to thermal runaway, which can lead the batteries to combust. Lithium-ion batteries contain an electrolyte that is pressurized and flammable. An electrolyte conducts electricity. Short-circuiting can cause a battery cell to overheat. The overheated cell can then in turn overheating adjacent cells causing the entire battery to ignite To help avoid this hazard, battery packs contain safety features such as circuitry that disconnects the battery when its voltage exceeds a safe operating range.

All lithium-ion batteries have risks. Manufacturers of lithium-ion batteries are required to use testing standards that are far more stringent than those used for other types of batteries. But even the best battery manufacturers cannot make perfect, risk-free lithium-ion batteries.

So, consumers should be cautious in their use of lithium-ion-powered headphones and other devices. The risk of an explosion or fire is very low, perhaps one in a million. Still, safety is always a concern. Because risks are inherent in any lithium-ion battery, consumers are best advised to understand the risk, be on the look-out for any product recalls, and remain informed.

Who Can Be Held Liable for Injury Caused by a Headphone Explosion?

The main problem in connection with battery-powered headphone explosions is a defect in lithium-ion batteries. A lawsuit claiming strict liability for a defective product is the indicated remedy. In a strict product defect case, the victim does not need to prove that the manufacturer was negligent in any way. Rather, the victim only has to show that the manufacturer produced a defective product.

Several types of defects are possible as follows:

  • Design Defect: There may be a defect with a battery-powered product’s design that makes it prone to overheating and explosion. According to experts, it is a design defect that is the problem with lithium-ion batteries. Apparently, even the best battery manufacturers cannot make lithium-ion batteries that are completely free of risk. The risk may be very low. Nonetheless, if a person experiences exploding batteries and it can be shown that a headphone product was defective in its design, the manufacturer may be liable for injuries caused by the defect;
  • Manufacturing Defect: A product may be expertly designed, but defects can arise in the manufacturing process. For example, faulty materials or the malfunction of equipment during production can cause defects in the product that increase the risk of an explosion. The defect can cause the product to malfunction when it is used by a consumer, leading to injuries. Similarly, manufacturers of separate battery components can be held liable if they produce a defective battery part or battery charger;
  • Warning Label Defect: There are several types of product warning defects. Liability for a warning defect could arise from any of the following product warning issues:
    • The manufacturer completely fails to place any type of warning label on a product with a lithium-ion battery;
    • Instructions on a warning label are not clear or contain mistakes;
    • The warning label is placed on the product in such a way that makes it impractical or impossible to read. Or, it might be impractically formatted, e.g., the font might be too small or not readily noticeable;
    • The attached warning label may fail to warn of the known hazards.

Finally, in some cases, manufacturers and distributors might be held liable for distributing headphone products that have already been subject to a recall or a stop-sale. The odds for liability may increase if the retailer knew or should have known that they were selling a defective product.

Generally, any entity in a product’s chain of distribution is potentially liable for a product defect. Although it is often the manufacturer itself who is legally responsible for defects, other entities that may be legally liable could include:

  • The manufacturer of specific component parts or materials;
  • A wholesaler of the product;
  • A distributor of a product; and
  • A retailer who sells the product to a consumer.

Also, the victim of a defective product does not need to be the person who purchased the product. Any person whom the manufacturer could reasonably foresee as a person who could be injured by the product may be able to recover damages for their injuries.

Are There Any Legal Remedies for a Headphone Explosion?

As noted above, injuries caused by exploding headphones can be serious. A person who has been seriously injured by exploding headphones may want to bring a lawsuit for damages against manufacturers and distributors of their headphones to compensate for their loss.

In this type of case, if it is successful, money damages may be awarded to the injured party to compensate them for their losses. The damages would cover all expenses associated with their injury, such as the following:

  • The cost of all medical care;
  • Hospital bills;
  • Damage to property other than the headphones themselves, if there was any;
  • Loss of earnings;
  • Loss of earning capacity, if there was any;
  • Pain and suffering.

Lastly, in cases in which a particular model of headphones causes injury to many people, the product may be recalled, and a class action lawsuit may be possible as well. Legal theories other than strict product liability are available also, mainly negligence and breach of warranty.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Headphone Explosion Lawsuit?

If you have been injured by exploding or burning headphones, you need to consult a class action lawyer. A personal injury lawyer specializes in lawsuits on behalf of people who have been injured in accidents or by defective products.

Your attorney can analyze the facts of your case and advise you whether you have grounds for a lawsuit against the manufacturer and distributors of the headphones that injured you. A lawsuit involving a defective product would also require the help of expert witnesses, and your lawyer is experienced in identifying the best experts and using them skillfully to contribute to the success of your case. Your lawyer can represent you in negotiation and in court.