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From Products Liability Law Daily, January 4, 2019

Injured laptop user sues Apple over ‘sparking’ power adapter

By Susan Engstrom

A consumer who suffered severe injuries when a spark from her laptop’s magnetic power adapter allegedly ignited the oxygen mask she was wearing, causing a flash fire that burned her face and skull, has filed suit against Apple Inc., the adapter’s manufacturer. Asserting causes of action for product liability and breach of warranty, the consumer contends that the company sold defective adapters that were unfit for their intended use and that it had a duty to test for safer, alternative designs. Her husband also brought a loss of consortium claim (Manzi v. Apple Inc., January 2, 2019).

On the day of the incident, the consumer, who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, asthma, and emphysema, was wearing an oxygen mask in her home while using a MacBook laptop computer with a MagSafe Adapter, a magnetic power source manufactured by Apple for use with its MacBook series laptops. According to the consumer’s complaint, the MagSafe Adapter defectively sparked and ignited the oxygen she was using, starting a flash fire that engulfed her face and skull in flames.

The complaint asserts that Apple had made the following representation about its MagSafe Adapters prior to the incident in question: "The MagSafe Power Adapter is just that: a magnetic connection instead of a physical one. So, tripping over a power cord won’t send your shiny new MacBook flying off a table or desk; the cord simply breaks cleanly away, without damage to either the cord or the system. As an added nicety, this means less wear on the connectors." The complaint also contends that the company never sent out any notice or warning about the dangers associated with the adapters, even though it had acknowledged problems of fraying, sparking, melting, and overheating through its "extended warranty program," which provides that customers who have "seen a spark" may be eligible for a replacement adapter free of charge. As the designer and manufacturer of the product, Apple knew or should have known of the dangers posed by the MagSafe Adapter, including the risk of sparking and catching fire, the complaint alleges.

Product liability claims. In her product liability cause of action, the consumer argues that the MagSafe Adapter she had used was in a defective condition and was unreasonably dangerous for its ordinary and foreseeable use at the time of manufacturing and when it left the factory. She also maintains that the adapter’s defective design, manufacture, and lack of a warning made it an inherently dangerous product that resulted in her serious and substantial personal injuries.

Other claims. The complaint’s breach of warranty claim asserts that the MagSafe Adapter was not of merchantable quality, was unsafe and therefore unfit for its ordinary purpose for which it was designed and sold, was improperly and intentionally misrepresented by Apple, and was not free of defect. As a proximate result of Apple’s breach of warranty, the consumer contends, she suffered personal injuries. Finally, her husband alleges that he suffered a loss of consortium as a proximate result of Apple’s conduct, including a loss of love, society, affection, relationship, and companionship with his spouse.

Remedy. In addition to demanding a jury trial, the couple requests judgment in an amount that will fully and fairly compensate them for all losses that are in excess of the jurisdictional amount.

The case is No. 1:19-cv-00021.

Attorneys: Thomas K. Prindable (Cogan & Power, PC) for Penny K. Manzi and Jerry S. Manzi.

Companies: Apple Inc.

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