It comes as no surprise that self-balancing scooters, also known as hoverboards, are enormously popular. They’re easier to master than a skateboard but offer a similar sense of freedom. But the technology hasn’t been without problems. Half-a-million hoverboards have been recalled due to concerns that their batteries may overheat, catch fire, and in some cases even explode. Numerous airlines do not allow passengers to carry hoverboards due to this risk. When a hoverboard causes a fire or explodes and personal injuries result, a lawsuit against the manufacturer may be warranted.
Recalls and products liability cases
When a product is recalled—either by the voluntary decision of a manufacturer or due to regulatory action by a government agency—one hopes that the recall reaches every customer and manages to capture all of the defective units before they can hurt anyone. Unfortunately, recalls don’t always work as well as a manufacturer might hope.
When a recalled product causes a personal injury the fact that the product was recalled can be a useful piece of evidence for establishing a manufacturer’s liability. To serve as evidence the recall must relate to the defect that caused the injury. In the case of hoverboards, a plaintiff injured by an exploding battery could use the manufacturer recall to show that the explosion was caused by a defect inherent in the plaintiff’s specific hoverboard. But if the plaintiff was injured by a hoverboard that suddenly stopped, causing the plaintiff to fall, the battery recall would not be relevant.
By itself a product recall doesn’t relieve a manufacturer from liability for its defective products. The goal of the recall is to protect consumers from injuries, but behind that goal is the company’s aim to avoid expensive litigation. Nevertheless, a defendant manufacturer will make an effort to prove that the plaintiff knew about the recall and continued to use the defective product anyway. In such cases the plaintiff may be deemed to have assumed the risk of injury.
Theories of products liability for hoverboards
A manufacturer of hoverboards could be held liable for selling defective products under a theory of negligence or strict products liability. Negligence requires the plaintiff to prove that the defendant did not take reasonable precautions to ensure that its product was safe for consumers. A failure to perform safety tests, or an unreasonably risky design choice, could be used to establish a breach of the manufacturer’s duty toward consumers.
A strict products liability claim can be an easier route for plaintiffs in the right circumstances, because the source of the defect (i.e., the defendant’s negligence) is not a preliminary issue. To prevail on a strict products liability claim the plaintiff must prove, among other things, that the defect was present in the product when it left the defendant’s possession and caused the plaintiff’s injuries. In the case of hoverboards, a factory-installed battery that explodes and burns the plaintiff probably meets these criteria. But any modifications to the hoverboard, such as a “do-it-yourself” attempt to fix a problem identified in a product recall, may introduce defects that are not the manufacturer’s responsibility, forcing the plaintiff to pursue a negligence claim instead.
One advantage of products liability claims in general is that they can be brought against not only the manufacturer of a defective product but also the product’s marketers. Injured plaintiffs therefore have options as to who they sue, especially if they aren’t sure at first who might be responsible for the specific defect that caused their injuries.
GGRM is a products liability law firm in Las Vegas
For more than 45 years the attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have represented personal injury clients in the Las Vegas area. If you have been injured by a hoverboard we are happy to discuss your legal options with you. Call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476, or reach us through our contact page.