updated 10:45 pm EDT, Thu April 12, 2012
Player ignited in user's hand, causing burns
Apple has been ordered to pay a Japanese couple 600,000 yen ($7,400) by the Tokyo District Court after a judge found the company at fault for a flaw in the first-generation iPod Nano that caused the product to catch fire during charging, resulting in burns on the wife's hand that had to be treated and took over a month to heal. Apple had instituted a recall of first-generation iPod Nanos in Japan in 2010, but the couple hadn't exchanged their unit.
Apple began the recall in Japan in late 2010 and later expanded it worldwide after several incidents, beginning in Tokyo, of the batteries in the Nanos catching fire during recharging. One US incident saw the player shooting sparks after 10 minutes of charging. The flaw was eventually traced to batteries from one particular supplier, but affected units were made throughout the 15-month run of the first-generation Nano.
Lithium-ion batteries from that era were known for a chemical instability that saw fires break out in many models of notebooks and other portable devices that used the battery packs. Many PC manufacturers, as well as Apple, were affected by reports of fires breaking out in rare but scary examples, often associated with Sony batteries. The problem led directly to the development of lower-capacity but safer lithium-polymer batteries that are now the standard.
The US recall program saw the company replacing sent-in first-gen Nanos with refurbished units that included new shells and new batteries at the beginning, but as supplies ran out Apple switched to sending buyers new or refurbished sixth-generation Nanos. In the case in Japan, the reasons why the couple had not taken advantage of the Japanese recall was not reported, but the incident of fire occurred this past July. The plaintiffs may not have been aware that Apple had recalled the model they had for some reason.
Judge Hideo Sakae ruled that Apple's previous recall program was an admission that the battery was faulty and that they were legally liable for the claim, and awarded the couple the full amount they had asked for. The award includes covering the cost of bringing the matter to trial and medical treatment for the burns.
Apple Japan had no comment on the matter, referring questions to the US headquarters. [via Nikkei.com]