Fire-prone batteries are nothing new when it come to electronics. Roughly a decade ago, Sony-manufactured batteries were under the microscope for defects. More recently, Samsung found itself forced to issue multiple recalls on its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone due to defective batteries causing fires. In that case, Samsung eventually fingered the "irregularly sized" battery inside the smartphone as the culprit.
Apple has stayed clear of any major battery issues with its iPhone line until now. A suit has been filed against Apple by State Farm insurance company and Wisconsin resident Xai Thao. Thao was a State Farm customer and according to the lawsuit, a defective iPhone 4S "failed" and "started a fire in Thao's home" that is said to have caused over $75,000 in damage.
According to the court documents, Thao purchased the iPhone 4S in 2014 and neither she nor anyone else had changed the battery. The suit states, "Preliminary investigations show evidence of significant and localized heating event in the battery area of the iPhone as well as remnants of internal shorting, indicating that an internal failure of the iPhone’s battery caused the fire."
State Farm claims that there were no other potential flammable sources in the area where the fire originated, and that there were losses incurred by Thao because she had to pay out of her own pocket "as the damages were not covered under State Farm’s policy of insurance." The suit is seeking a judgement against Apple "in an amount to be determined, plus prejudgement interest, all taxable costs, fees, and disbursements."
There are, however, several questions remaining in the case. For instance, the legal documents don't specify what condition the phone was in at the time of the fire. We have no idea if the phone was charging or just sitting on a nightstand. If the device was charging at the time the fire started, it is unclear if it was charging with an Apple-branded or a third-party charger. It's also not made clear in the court documents if there was any damage to the iPhone 4S prior to the fire.
The iPhone 4S was an incredibly popular smartphone during its heyday; AT&T was responsible for a million iPhone 4S activations alone back in 2011. You can bet that Apple will fight this current legal matter with all its might, however, no official statements on the case have been made by Apple as of this writing.