MANHATTAN, NEW YORK (June 20, 2023) – Four people have tragically died in a Chinatown apartment fire that started in an e-bike shop after batteries exploded.
New York City police officials are saying that the fire started on Tuesday. A set of lithium ion batteries inside of an e-bike exploded.
This caused the e-bike shop to catch fire. That fire then spread to the upper floors of the Chinatown apartment directly above the shop.
Firefighters and paramedics were called to the scene in order to put out the fire and help victims. Sadly, two people died in the blaze. Two women remain hospitalized and in critical condition.
The shop where the blaze started was cited last August for safety violations related to battery charging and its electrical system. A full investigation remains ongoing at this time.
Liability For Manhattan Apartment Fires
E-bikes run off of lithium ion batteries, which are the same type that power phones, computers and other electronics. But there have been many issues with the way these batteries have been manufactured for scooters and bikes. Problems with some of the batteries have led to them overheating, catching fire and exploding. In 2021, e-bike batteries have caused over 55 fires in New York City alone. There are a number of reasons that lithium-ion batteries may catch fire.
- Manufacturing Defects: If impurities creep into the manufacturing process this could lead to catastrophic failure of the lithium-ion cell. A thinning of separators could also lead to cell failure.
- Design Flaws: Companies occasionally cut corners to save on costs. But this can also compromise the safety of the batteries they produce. For example, if batteries lack proper cooling systems this could cause the battery cells’ temperature to rise and combust.
- Improper Usage: Excessive high-voltage charging could damage any battery. Leaving a battery next to a heat source for long periods could do the same thing.
- Charger Issues: The use of poorly insulated chargers can make a battery unstable over time.
Depending on the facts of any case, there could be numerous sources of liability for an apartment fire. For starters, all building owners have a legal responsibility to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition. Landlords must do periodic maintenance on their property and make sure their building is compliant with the fire code. In many situations, this includes installing self-closing doors, as required by law in NYC. When a property owner is aware of a dangerous condition with the premises and fails to correct it, this could form the basis of a negligence claim.
The company that manufactured an e-bike could also be liable for a fire that leads to death or injury. Companies have a legal obligation to create products that are reasonably safe. They must also warn about the non-obvious dangers associated with the use of their products. A number of these lithium ion battery explosions have been due in part to defects in the manufacturing process. There are a number of steps that should be taken after any New York City apartment fire.
- Victims should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
- Eye witnesses should be interviewed.
- Medical records should be preserved.
- Maintenance records should be examined.
The vast majority of lithium ion battery explosions are preventable. The family of any person that dies in an apartment fire caused by a battery explosion may have legal recourse through a wrongful death claim. It is extremely important that all evidence is properly preserved after any apartment fire. Evidence is what will ultimately be used to demonstrate liability.
Investigating Chinatown Apartment Fires
We at Gersowitz Libo & Korek, P.C. extend our deepest condolences to the families of all of the victims. There needs to be a thorough investigation into what happened. Far too many people have been killed or injured by fires involving lithium ion batteries in NYC. It is our sincere hope that steps are taken to prevent other tragedies like this.
Have you or someone that you loved been harmed in a Chinatown apartment fire? There are a number of laws designed to protect your rights. Our team of apartment safety advocates are here to answer any questions that you may have. We care deeply that accident victims are aware of their rights and that those rights are being protected. Whether you just have legal questions or need a free, independent investigation into an incident we are here for you. You can reach out to us anytime at (516) 908-9792.