The hoverboard – the personal transportation device that doesn’t actually hover but instead tootles along on two wheels – was one of the big-ticket items of last year’s holiday season. But its popularity led to the market being saturated with sub-standard devices made by careless manufacturers desperate to cash in on the craze, and it wasn’t long before reports of fires began to surface.
The situation was so serious that Amazon temporarily halted sales of the device on its web store, though by that time the Fox family of Nashville, Tennessee had already purchased one from its site.
Things turned bad for the Foxes in January of this year when their board’s battery overheated and exploded, causing a devastating fire that burned down their entire house. Fortunately no one died in the incident, though the traumatic experience and loss of possessions left the family of six emotionally distraught.
According to reports, the Fox family bought the board from a seller on the Amazon site. However, after months of investigations, the family’s lawyers have been unable to locate the manufacturer, leading them to conclude that it wasn’t a legitimate firm.
Tennessee product liability law allows a seller to be held responsible if the manufacturer can’t be found, so the family is now targeting Amazon for compensation. In a $30 million lawsuit filed last week, it’s claiming that the ecommerce giant knowingly sold a potentially dangerous product.
“The Foxes contend that Amazon and its various subsidiaries had information about the danger of this product well in advance of the January 9 fire … they should have known the product was being misrepresented on their website,” Steve Anderson, one of the lawyers acting for the family, told The Tennessean.
Anderson added: “The most horrific thing was obviously the episode that day and trying to rescue these two teenagers, and the profound impact on them. It’s also important to consider that literally in a matter of a few minutes every single personal possession of this entire family was destroyed.”
The Foxes are seeking compensation for the loss of their possessions, as well as for the emotional distress caused by the incident.
A fire department investigation concluded that the family’s house fire was caused by a battery fault with the “FITURBO F1” hoverboard. The fire was one of a number of similar incidents caused by sub-standard hoverboard batteries toward the end of last year and in the early months of 2016, a situation that forced a recall of some models and the seizure of thousands of units by U.S. customs as they arrived in the country from factories abroad.