A Connecticut school district is telling students to power off their school-provided tablets after the lithium-ion battery in one student’s device overheated and burned through the student’s backpack.

In a Thursday, Oct. 15 letter to parents, Bristol Public Schools superintendent Catherine Carbone said that the district was halting the use of all Lenovo tablet devices issued to students pre-K through grade 3.

In the letter, Dr. Carbone said that the “tablet battery ignited” earlier in the day Thursday. She said that the incident has been reported to Lenovo, according to WTIC FOX 61 Hartford.

“Until we are certain that this is an isolated event, we are requesting families to cease using the tablet device,” Dr. Carbone advised. “Do not charge the device, and turn OFF power to the device. All devices will be returned to the school/district until we have an understanding of the malfunction.”

More devices, more risks

School districts throughout the country have issued millions of tablets and laptops to students for virtual learning when the COVID-19 pandemic led to school closures. Almost all laptops and tablets are powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Several major manufacturers have recalled devices for fire risk in recent years.

A lithium-ion battery fire in North Carolina prompted similar warnings from education officials in August. A student in Winston-Salem was using his school-issued Chromebook at home for a virtual class when it started sparking and flaming. Months earlier in the same school district, a teacher used a fire extinguisher to battle flames erupting from a student’s laptop and forced a class full of kids to evacuate.

Lithium-ion batteries are prone to overheat, catch on fire, or explode if they contain manufacturing or design flaws, are improperly charged, or left to charge too long. The batteries can also malfunction if they are damaged in some way.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), deaths, injuries and property damage caused by incidents involving consumer products cost more than $700 billion each year. Most of these injuries could be avoided if the distributor or manufacturer of these products simply took additional measures to ensure the safety of its products.

Exploding devices

Beasley Allen is currently investigating cases involving severe injuries caused by lithium-ion batteries, including fires and exploding devices similar to the one highlighted in this story. We also are investigating serious injuries caused by e-cigarette devices and exploding e-cigarette batteries. These explosions have been linked to faulty defective lithium-ion batteries and insufficient warnings for users. In particular, e-cigarette devices have been aggressively marketed and sold in stores throughout the United States with few regulations to ensure their safety. Contact William Sutton in our Toxic Torts Section to discuss your claim.

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