Samsung Galaxy Note 7 battery fire lawsuits spreading to Galaxy Note 5, S6, S7 models

Posted:
in iPhone edited May 2017
Hot on the heels of the devastating recall that stopped sales of Galaxy Note 7, Samsung is now facing additional lawsuits that allege the company was aware of battery overheating and fire hazards for years--including its Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, S6 Active, S7, S7 Edge, S7 Active and Note 5--but failed to address the issue or warn customers. Legal action has now spread to multiple class action cases in three different states.

Galaxy S7 Edge battery fire
Galaxy S7 Edge battery fire. Source: PhoneArena.com


Samsung's $5 billion Note 7 inferno destroyed its phablet last fall and took down the Gear VR Oculus-based Virtual Reality headset with it. However, a new class action lawsuit filed this month by Dale Holzworth in Massachusetts alleges that the company's other products also share the same problematic battery issues pose risks to users.

Holzworth said he purchased a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge last year that caught fire while charging in his son's bedroom, spreading flames to the mattress and sheets while dripping molten metal that burned holes in the carpet.

"Outside of the Note 7 recall, Samsung has taken no steps to recall or warn consumers about the risks of overheating, fire and explosion posed by their Subject Phones," the plaintiff stated, despite alleging that the Galaxy phone maker was aware of complaints from users regarding overheating batteries dating back to 2011.

Instead, Samsung has continued to increase the battery power in its large format phones despite an awareness of thermal issues. The lawsuit claims Samsung attempted to address the problems using a "thermal spreading," stating that "according to Samsung, the thermal spreader it designed was 'unlike conventional thermal spread technology.'

The lawsuit cites the team at Samsung that designing the "thermal spreading" system as stating that "due to the spatial limits of smartphones, the cooling system's cooling capacity alone is not enough to cool the device. We need to calculate the amount of electric current and optimize the heat control algorithm to minimize occurring heat. In other words, the new thermal spreader hardware controls the heat more effectively but the software heat-control algorithm must be made compatible to ensure best performance."

Multiple fires in California and New York

Four other class action lawsuits filed in New York and California also describe similar complaints with the same series of high-end Galaxy flagships sold over the last two years.

A case filed in New York by Claire Gilligan noted that Samsung has sought to deliver the largest batteries with the shortest recharging periods, but alleges that the company cut corners to maximize performance and does not do independent testing of its batteries as other phone makers do, relying solely on the internal testing that allowed the Note 7 to reach buyers.

Between March in December of last year, Gilligan said she was forced to replace her Galaxy S7 four times due to overheating that caused malfunctions, including her original charger that began emitting smoke after overheating while charging. The suit asks the court to order Samsung to offer owners of affected Galaxy phones the same refund and exchange program that it set up for Note 7 buyers.

Gilligan stated that if she had known about the overheating issues that affected several generations of Galaxy S and Note models, she would not have bought the Galaxy S7.

Three parallel cases have also been filed in California. Citing a materials chemistry professor from MIT, one lawsuit states that the batteries Samsung uses are susceptible to internally releasing oxygen at the negative terminal when overcharged, rapidly discharged or if there is a defect in a battery cell. That sets off a "thermal runaway" condition that turns the battery into what the professor described as a "bomb," reaching temperatures of 1100 degrees Fahrenheit (593 Celsius).

Samsung opposed to lawsuit consolidation

In February, Samsung filed a brief in opposition to an effort to consolidate four existing class actions into a "multidistrict litigation," designed to avoid duplicative legal procedures and inconsistent judicial decisions involving a number of similar cases. Samsung claimed that its Galaxy customers do not have the right to sue the company for fire-related damages, but are contractually obligated to resolve any claims via private arbitration

Samsung claimed that its Galaxy customers do not have the right to sue the company for fire-related damages, but are contractually obligated to resolve any claims via private arbitration, apparently due to an End User License Agreement it includes on the boxes of products buyers open.

In April, the United States Judicial Panel On Multidistrict Litigation denied the consolidation and transfer of four battery fire cases involving 8 overheating Galaxy phones, saying that MDL was unnecessary because "alternatives to centralization, such as informal cooperation among the relatively few involved attorneys and coordination among the involved courts, are eminently feasible and will be sufficient to minimize any potential for duplicative discovery or inconsistent pretrial rulings."

However, a series of four California lawsuits will be combined into one case. Buyers in other states affected by Galaxy battery overheating and fire risk will apparently have to file their own suits in each state. Existing lawsuits seek to address the rights of buyers to get a refund for up to four years after buying a defective Galaxy phone sold in 2015 and 2016.

Galaxy S6 Edge battery fire
Galaxy S6 Edge battery fire Source: PhoneArena.com


The cases all list the same series of Galaxy S6, S7 and Note 5 models, which along with the recalled Galaxy Note 7 involve every flagship phone the company has sold over the past two years (there was no Galaxy Note 6, as Samsung jumped that product name to increase the model number to more favorably compare its newest phablet sized phone against Apple's iPhone 7 last fall).

This year Samsung similarly shifted its Galaxy S8 branding on the S8 Plus model to more directly invite comparisons with Apple's iPhone 7 and 7 Plus models.

Galaxy S8 also has overheating issues

Despite efforts to get previous battery overheating issues under control--including the inclusion of new "heat pipes" to cool its flagship phone starting with last year's S7, there are many reports of Samsung's newest S8 models overheating, too.

Google lists nearly 200,000 search results related to overheating specific to "Galaxy S8," many of which suggest removing third party apps and clearing cache files to prevent Android from allowing software to run unchecked, creating a thermal issue that could turn flawed or physically damaged phones into fire hazards.There are many reports of Samsung's newest S8 models overheating, too

At the same time, there are also blog postings such as one by Raymond Wong for Mashable which claimed in its headline that "It sure looks like the Galaxy S8's battery won't explode even if you stab it with a knife!"

Eight paragraphs into the piece, it noted that its irresponsible claim was based on an "unscientific test" portrayed in a YouTube video that "may not accurately reflect the durability of final retail models," casually adding that after suffering damage "its battery could explode. You do so at your own risk."

Galaxy S8 has also exhibited a red tint color calibration problem, what the company described as being "due to natural variations in displays."

Apple handled "Touch Disease" class action with repair initiative

Last year, class action lawsuits also targeted iPhone 6s for an issue named "Touch Disease," involving a screen flicker issue when the device was repeatedly dropped on a hard surface.

Apple responded with a repair program to address the issue, and included a reimbursement for users who had paid out of pocket to repair their devices.

The company issued a statement saying, "Apple has determined that some iPhone 6 Plus devices may exhibit display flickering or Multi-Touch issues after being dropped multiple times on a hard surface and then incurring further stress on the device."
sockrolidwatto_cobra
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 33
    dachardachar Posts: 330member
    If this is true then this could be even more damaging for Samsung.  
    lostkiwiwatto_cobrajbdragon
  • Reply 2 of 33
    linkmanlinkman Posts: 862member
    Purchasers and reviewers have totally forgotten Samsung's fire problems (and self-destructing appliances). They continue to buy their products by the millions and give glowing praise.
    sockrolidcalilostkiwiwatto_cobraanton zuykov
  • Reply 3 of 33
    I'm not a fan of Samsung, but do these lawyers have any statistics to show these devices have a substantially higher risk of fires than the industry average (like the Note 7 did)? Otherwise it just seems like greedy lawyers searching for a class action where there isn't any merit. 
    netmage
  • Reply 4 of 33
    sockrolidsockrolid Posts: 2,788member
    And you thought only Amazon sold "Fire" hardware.
    calilostkiwipscooter63watto_cobraanton zuykov
  • Reply 5 of 33
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,412member

    ...
    pscooter63watto_cobraanton zuykov2old4funbrakken
  • Reply 6 of 33
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,371member
    I'm not a fan of Samsung, but do these lawyers have any statistics to show these devices have a substantially higher risk of fires than the industry average (like the Note 7 did)? Otherwise it just seems like greedy lawyers searching for a class action where there isn't any merit. 

    It does not mater phones should not catch fire for not reason. I worked on battery operated product and a single instance of overheating battery even one which does not catch fire was treated seriously. Most times it due to a damage battery/abused battery. I can tell you I have used Android phones for many years and they all over heat, to the point you did not want to put them in your pocket after using it for a good period of time. Heating the battery also kills the life in the battery so most Android I used were worthless form a battery stand point after about 18 months. The over heating came form the processor heading the phone up and most of the heat transferred to the battery.
    calipscooter63watto_cobraanton zuykovjbdragon
  • Reply 7 of 33
    jcs2305jcs2305 Posts: 581member
    I'm not a fan of Samsung, but do these lawyers have any statistics to show these devices have a substantially higher risk of fires than the industry average (like the Note 7 did)? Otherwise it just seems like greedy lawyers searching for a class action where there isn't any merit. 
    Statistics ?? People have made reports of damage and fire resulting from charging on these other devices. What does it matter if they have a substantially higher risk? That's not what the lawsuit is about from what I am understanding.  People are reporting fire and heat induced damage form different models, hence the class action suit. 

    So if I have the phone plugged on my nightstand and it burns and damages my furniture and carpeting, unless there is data that says they have a higher risk of fire 🔥 Than other models or brands of smartphone my incident doesn't matter ?  Just asking .. I own iPhone 7+ btw. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 33
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
  • Reply 9 of 33
    cali said:
    This is Samsung, they don't have any "gates".
    watto_cobraanton zuykovStrangeDays
  • Reply 10 of 33
    kevin keekevin kee Posts: 933member
    Can someone explain this?

    Samsung claimed that its Galaxy customers do not have the right to sue the company for fire-related damages, but are contractually obligated to resolve any claims via private arbitration, apparently due to an End User License Agreement it includes on the boxes of products buyers open. 

    If this is what I thought it is, Samsung has a bigger problem than just explosive phones.
    watto_cobra2old4funjbdragon
  • Reply 11 of 33
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,261member
    I'm not a fan of Samsung, but do these lawyers have any statistics to show these devices have a substantially higher risk of fires than the industry average (like the Note 7 did)? Otherwise it just seems like greedy lawyers searching for a class action where there isn't any merit. 
    Well, if consumers come to them wanting to sue, then that's what the lawyer should do, as long as there's evidence there was a real problem. If a number of people have that problem, then it could be expanded further to a class action. That's their job.

    The Note 7 problem was so outrageous, and so far out of norm, that almost nothing can be compared to that. There were about 300 fires in the first two weeks the phone was on sale, worldwide. During that time, about 2.5 million were sold. notes have sold about 10 million a year. If we extrapolate that, and say 12.5 million a year, to make it easy, that would be about 1,500 fires over the year. Almost nothing can compare to that.

    but if there's say, 30 fires in a year, that would still be far out of norm. In 2016, Apple sold about 215 million phones. Just a handful caught fire. That's normal.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 33
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 2,898moderator
    Someone should release an app that pushes the processor into burst mode (an ironic term), as a way to test whether your phone will heat up significantly.  That way people can test their phone under controlled conditions; the app would tell you to place your phone somewhere where an incident of overheating of thermal runaway won't cause damage or endanger people, like outside on a cement surface, for example.  This would allow people to relatively safely test their phone rather than have the problem crop up when they are performing an energy intensive task like playing a game or when charging their device.  Then we'd see just how many of these phones are at risk.  
    edited May 2017 watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 33
    If Samsung is getting law suits for all those devices apple should be as well considering that Samsung SDI manufacturers the batteries for all the iPhone's up till the iPhone 7. People dont really realize that samsung is one of the major suppliers for the components inside the iPhone. Just saying.
  • Reply 14 of 33
    Samsung accounts for the

    A-series chip set
    The flash memory 
    The ddr4 ram
    Batteries from Samsung sdi 
    And coming this year the oled panels for display

    netmage
  • Reply 15 of 33
    DanielEranDanielEran Posts: 290editor
    If Samsung is getting law suits for all those devices apple should be as well considering that Samsung SDI manufacturers the batteries for all the iPhone's up till the iPhone 7. People dont really realize that samsung is one of the major suppliers for the components inside the iPhone. Just saying.

    The problem with Samsung is not that it builds components that spontaneously burst into flames for random, unknown reasons. 

    The problem is that Samsung raced to design and develop phones using shoddy engineering, made design shortcuts and began production without sufficient testing to get the Note 7 to market before iPhone 7.

    On top of defective finished products, Galaxy phones are also running Android software with Samsung's own software to manage various aspects of the device, including the "software heat-control algorithm" mentioned in the lawsuit.

    This was all done by Samsung Mobile, which is not the same people or even business unit as the Samsung LSI chip fab or its memory, chip, display (and even battery) production groups. 

    Samsung LSI fabricated Apple's A4-5-6-7-8 chips while Samsung also developed its own Exynos chip for the Galaxy S4, ending up with a defective memory controller that didn't work correctly and was slower than advertised. That flawed design had no bearing on its ability to build correctly functioning chips to Apple's specification.

     
    radarthekatpscooter63watto_cobra2old4funbrakken
  • Reply 16 of 33
    DanielEranDanielEran Posts: 290editor

    melgross said:
    I'm not a fan of Samsung, but do these lawyers have any statistics to show these devices have a substantially higher risk of fires than the industry average (like the Note 7 did)? Otherwise it just seems like greedy lawyers searching for a class action where there isn't any merit. 
    Well, if consumers come to them wanting to sue, then that's what the lawyer should do, as long as there's evidence there was a real problem. If a number of people have that problem, then it could be expanded further to a class action. That's their job.

    The Note 7 problem was so outrageous, and so far out of norm, that almost nothing can be compared to that. There were about 300 fires in the first two weeks the phone was on sale, worldwide. During that time, about 2.5 million were sold. notes have sold about 10 million a year. If we extrapolate that, and say 12.5 million a year, to make it easy, that would be about 1,500 fires over the year. Almost nothing can compare to that.

    but if there's say, 30 fires in a year, that would still be far out of norm. In 2016, Apple sold about 215 million phones. Just a handful caught fire. That's normal.
    It's not really "normal" for phones to catch on fire unless they are significantly damaged (internally broken from trauma) or are recharged with a defective or improperly built charger or damaged cable. 

    However, Samsung's flagships are very large devices built around high-energy drain displays and overclocked chips that require large capacity batteries and attempt to provide rapid charging with high wattage chargers. Add in poor power management software and you get substantial risk of fire that's far larger than a typical phone. 

    Apart from actual fires, there are lots of reports of overheating. In fact it appears pretty common among Android phones in general. Add together the platform, poor QA, rushed to market at discounts to a demographic that's likely to keep using them after being damaged and you have even higher risk. 
    radarthekatpscooter63watto_cobra2old4funbrakken
  • Reply 17 of 33
    ericthehalfbeeericthehalfbee Posts: 3,920member
    jcs2305 said:
    I'm not a fan of Samsung, but do these lawyers have any statistics to show these devices have a substantially higher risk of fires than the industry average (like the Note 7 did)? Otherwise it just seems like greedy lawyers searching for a class action where there isn't any merit. 
    Statistics ?? People have made reports of damage and fire resulting from charging on these other devices. What does it matter if they have a substantially higher risk? That's not what the lawsuit is about from what I am understanding.  People are reporting fire and heat induced damage form different models, hence the class action suit. 

    So if I have the phone plugged on my nightstand and it burns and damages my furniture and carpeting, unless there is data that says they have a higher risk of fire 🔥 Than other models or brands of smartphone my incident doesn't matter ?  Just asking .. I own iPhone 7+ btw. 


    Yes it does matter. Lithium batteries occasionally catch fire. It's rare, but it happens. You shouldn't be able to file a class action over something that rarely happens and is outside the control of the manufacturer.

    And where are all these reports? Are there really a huge number of people reporting these issues, or is this like when Apple has an iPhone issue that affects a tiny fraction of devices but gets blown out of proportion?

    Like I said, I'm not a fan of Samsung, but that doesn't mean I support lawyers filing frivolous lawsuits because it happens to be against Samsung. Next up someone is going to file a class action against Apple over iPhones catching fire, because there have been several instances of them catching fire too.
    wonkothesanesingularitysingularity2old4funnetmage
  • Reply 18 of 33
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,518member
    If Samsung is getting law suits for all those devices apple should be as well considering that Samsung SDI manufacturers the batteries for all the iPhone's up till the iPhone 7. People dont really realize that samsung is one of the major suppliers for the components inside the iPhone. Just saying.

    Actually, Samsung makes some top-notch components that have the best reliability anywhere. This is why Apple uses them. The problem with the exploding Samsung phone wasn't with the components; it was with the design of the phone.

    In an effort to out-spec Apple, Samsung designers packed as much as they could into the case, but failed to leave enough room inside for the battery to expand when it heated up. Samsung initially blamed the battery because they panicked; they realised they had a major disaster on their hands and needed to get ahead of it as soon as possible. So they replaced the burners with new phones with new batteries – which then, disastrously, went on to demonstrate the exact same problem.  It was only much later that the company realised that the design of the phone was the problem.

    So the problem isn't the battery; the problem is the phone, and Apple doesn't sell Samsung phones; they use Samsung parts.

    2old4fun
  • Reply 19 of 33
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,518member

    Samsung accounts for the

    A-series chip set
    The flash memory 
    The ddr4 ram
    Batteries from Samsung sdi 
    And coming this year the oled panels for display


    Yes, as I said before, the problem with the Samsung phone was a poor, inadequately tested design, and not the components inside it.

    One other thing, Samsung manufacturers the A-series chip set, but Apple designed and own all the rights to it, which is why it still outperforms newer Samsung processors even though it is more than a year older.

    It must be quite galling for Samsung Mobile: having access to a better chip a few divisions away, but unable to use its technology to improve the efficiency and speed of their own kit.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 33
    ericthehalfbeeericthehalfbee Posts: 3,920member
    Rayz2016 said:
    If Samsung is getting law suits for all those devices apple should be as well considering that Samsung SDI manufacturers the batteries for all the iPhone's up till the iPhone 7. People dont really realize that samsung is one of the major suppliers for the components inside the iPhone. Just saying.

    Actually, Samsung makes some top-notch components that have the best reliability anywhere. This is why Apple uses them. The problem with the exploding Samsung phone wasn't with the components; it was with the design of the phone.

    In an effort to out-spec Apple, Samsung designers packed as much as they could into the case, but failed to leave enough room inside for the battery to expand when it heated up. Samsung initially blamed the battery because they panicked; they realised they had a major disaster on their hands and needed to get ahead of it as soon as possible. So they replaced the burners with new phones with new batteries – which then, disastrously, went on to demonstrate the exact same problem.  It was only much later that the company realised that the design of the phone was the problem.

    So the problem isn't the battery; the problem is the phone, and Apple doesn't sell Samsung phones; they use Samsung parts.


    This is wrong. There was nothing wrong with the phone.

    The problem was a case, but not the phone case. It was the battery casing that the cell went into. The corner of the battery casing was curved and caused the layers of the cell to be forced together when the cell was inserted into the casing during battery assembly. This was verified by independent lab tests.

    The secondary problem was an insulating layer that was supposed to overlap where they joined , but was actually too short and left a small gap creating an area where a potential short could occur.

    So Samsung screwed up royally by having two separate problems with their battery, that both got missed during "quality control". That's a major fukup.
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