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E-Scooter Battery Sparks Massive Bronx Apartment Fire

An electric scooter caused a large fire in a Bronx apartment building when its lithium-ion battery overheated, according to FDNY officials.

This frightening incident occurred on the morning of Tuesday, January 12, 2021. The e-scooter was located in the living room of a family's apartment at 1720 Watson Ave. in the Soundview section of the Bronx. There was a smoke alarm in the apartment, but it wasn't functional, so residents were unaware when the scooter's battery overheated and sparked the flames.

The fire quickly spread throughout the building, choking residents with clouds of smoke as they called for help. The FDNY said heavy smoke and fire could be seen coming out of several building windows. They utilized the tower ladder and headed inside the building to rescue terrified residents.

Overall, a dozen people were injured because of the fire. Four people, including a 4-year-old boy, remain in critical condition, and two firefighters were left with reportedly minor injuries. Fire marshals ruled that the fire was accidental, and that it started from the lithium-ion battery in the e-scooter.  

This incident is not an isolated one; lithium-ion batteries have been known to explode or otherwise catch fire, often when attached to e-scooters or other micromobility devices like hoverboards. E-scooters have seen a rise in popularity in the past couple years and have been especially favored since the COVID-19 pandemic began, as they offer an alternative to taking public transportation and are quicker than regular bikes. However, these e-scooters and their batteries do not come without serious risks.

According to a report by the U.S. Product Consumer Safety Commission, e-scooters caused an estimated 50,000 emergency department visits between 2017 and 2019. In a separate April 2020 report on safety concerns associated with micromobility products, the U.S. Product Consumer Safety Commission found that there were over 330 fire-related incidents associated with charging and riding e-scooters between 2015 and March 2019. 

Lithium-ion batteries power many of our modern-day devices, but they have not evolved along with the rest of our technology. A lithium-ion battery has three main components, of which a Tufts University engineering professor said "you couldn't find three worse materials to put together." If there is a short circuit or other problem with the battery, it can quickly heat up, and the highly flammable liquid electrolyte material inside can leak; if exposed to oxygen, there is a decent chance of explosion. In the case of e-scooters, the batteries can explode while the scooter is in a stationary position (whether or not it is charging) or while in use.

Lithium-ion batteries power almost all e-scooters, and most companies know they can be a hazard, yet they still keep them on the market. In 2018, transportation sharing company Lime recalled 2,000 of its electric scooters after they became aware that the batteries on some models had been catching fire. Although the company recalled that specific model of the scooter, it did not stop them from rolling out other e-scooter models.  

When a company does not ensure its product is safe for use, they could be found liable if an accident occurs. If you have been injured in an accident caused by a defective or malfunctioning e-scooter, you may have a products liability case against the scooter manufacturer. Call our products liability lawyers at 212-736-5300 or fill out our online contact form today. Our attorneys have successfully handled many accident cases involving defective products, including a Bronx case in which we represented victims of a fire that caused significant injuries and tragic deaths.  

Our firm has filed a lawsuit for another tragic fire that occurred in a Brooklyn apartment that may have had a similar cause to the Bronx fire above. We are asking anyone with information about e-scooter batteries exploding or initiating fires to please contact us.

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