Amazon and a number of other retailers and manufacturers have been targeted by a growing number of lawsuits over fires, property damage and injuries linked to hoverboards, a type of self-balancing skateboard that uses lithium ion batteries that have been found to overheat and explodetr .
The online retailer has been linked to a number of hoverboard fire lawsuits in recent months, according to Bloomberg News, and public attention was focused on the problem earlier this month when a three-year-old Pennsylvania girl died in a fire linked to hoverboard problems.
On March 7, a federal judge refused to dismiss a class action lawsuit against Swagway, LLC, a hoverboard manufacturer, clearing the way for the lawsuit to move forward.
A trial involving a claim filed against Amazon, frequently named in the growing number of hoverboard product liability lawsuits, is slated to begin in July 2018. The plaintiff in that lawsuit is seeking $30 million in damages and has asked for additional punitive damages against the company for recklessly endangering the public by selling the toys, which became popular during the 2015 Christmas season.
Self-balancing scooters, more commonly known as hoverboards, have two wheels at either end of the platform and are powered by lithium-ion battery packs.
In July, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a hoverboard recall, indicating that there had been nearly 100 reports of the lithium ion battery packs overheating, sparking, smoking, catching fire or exploding. The agency investigated more than 60 fires reportedly started by hoverboards.
Following the death Ashanti Hughes, the three year old who died in a house fire allegedly sparked by a hoverboard earlier this month, the CPSC announced it was reopening its investigation. She is the first U.S. death linked to a hoverboard fire.
The CPSC issued a warning to hoverboard manufacturers in February 2016, indicating the devices must comply with federal safety standards and adhere to rigorous testing before selling their products in the U.S.
The agency said the hoverboards that have been recalled were all made with design flaws that caused the problems.
As reports of problems with the lithium-ion batteries continued to surface last year, the Department of Transportation warned the devices should be shipped as hazardous materials because of the safety threat the batteries posed. The DOT said 80% of shippers could not produce valid testing indicating the hoverboard lithium-ion batteries were properly tested and packaged to maintain integrity during transport, posing safety concerns.
Lawsuits filed against Amazon indicate that the hoverboards sold on that site were promoted as being manufactured by leading electronics manufacturers, which plaintiffs say was false and misleading, as the boards were made by discount Chinese manufacturers who cut corners to save money, resulting in dangerous devices.
The U.S. International Trade Commission issued an order last year banning unlicensed hoverboards from being imported into the U.S., following the reports of fires and explosions resulting in injuries. This was in addition to the many state and local bans put in place in many areas.
The hoverboards were sold online at various retailers, including Amazon.com, Overstock.com, Target.com, and Swagway.com.