Samsung orders recall of all Galaxy Note 7 smartphones

Many New York City residents rely on their smartphones and tablet computers to stay in touch with friends and family members, but they may not be aware that the lithium batteries that power mobile electronic devices can be highly unstable. The Korean electronics giant Samsung released its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone with much fanfare in August, but a series of battery-related fires led to sales of the device being halted on Sept. 2. Samsung has now ordered a recall of all Note 7s, and media outlets have begun to run stories about how volatile lithium batteries can be.

The recall was ordered after reports emerged indicating that Galaxy Note 7s had caused fires in residences, vehicles and hotel rooms. The liquid contained in a lithium ion power pack is highly flammable, and fires can be triggered when the plastic strip separating the positive and negative areas of the battery is damaged. While the lion's share of the media coverage about this issue is currently being directed at Samsung, battery-related fires in cellphones are not new. Nokia recalled 46 million lithium batteries in 2009, and there have also been reports of exploding iPhones in recent years.

The electronics marketplace is highly competitive, and even fractional differences in a phone's weight or power can have a dramatic influence on its sales figures. Electronics manufacturers like Apple, Samsung and Motorola are aware of the risks of using lithium ion batteries, but they are reluctant to abandon them because they are extremely light and can power devices for a day or more on a single charge.

Manufacturers and retailers in New York owe consumers a duty of care to ensure that products they make or sell are safe, and personal injury attorneys may initiate product liability litigation on behalf of those who are harmed when this duty is not met. Manufacturers may be held financially responsible when their products cause damage due to faults in their design or manufacture or when consumers were not adequately warned about potential dangers.

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