Plymouth man sues HP over laptop battery fire
For John Norrie, the recall of his HP Pavilion notebook computer came too late.
The laptop allegedly overheated, causing a fire that ripped through Norrie's Plymouth home in November 2006 while he was sleeping. The house was destroyed and Norrie suffered serious injuries in the process of escaping.
His lawyers have now filed a civil lawsuit against laptop-maker Hewlett-Packard and are seeking more than $225,000 in damages. The suit, first filed in Plymouth County Superior Court, was transferred to US District Court yesterday.
According to court papers, the laptop -- a gift Norrie received six months before the fire -- was defective. "Hewlett-Packard Company was negligent with respect to its manufacture, sale, instructors, and/or distribution of the subject laptop which was defective or was otherwise unfit for use by consumers," the suit says.
Norrie could not be reached today and his lawyer, Francis J. Lynch III, did not return phone calls.
Boston attorney Christopher G. Betke, who is representing Hewlett-Packard in the case, also did not return calls.
Since 2005, Hewlett-Packard has announced recalls of its lithium-ion batteries four times in conjunction with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission and other regulatory authorities. Customers affected by the recalls were able to receive replacement batteries at no cost.
In recent years, other computer makers, including Dell and Compaq, have also recalled millions of lithium-ion batteries because they were prone to overheating and posed a fire hazard. In 2006, Apple Inc. recalled 1.8 million battery packs because of the same issue.
The problems with computer batteries have led to several deaths. For instance, a 56-year-old Vancouver man in was killed last August when his Hewlett-Packard laptop burst into flames on a couch. The death prompted a warning by Canadian government officials that the devices should not be left on soft furniture because the material can block air vents and cause overheating.
Others have said battery overheating may be due to internal problems with computers, not where the devices are placed. Last fall, Reuters reported a Taiwanese national research organization was working on new technology that would prevent lithium-ion batteries from short circuiting malfunctions that can cause them to rapidly heat to 500 degrees and sometimes explode.