Battery Power - January/February 2013 - (Page 12)
So You’ve Been Placed on Notice...Now What?
Jonathan Jordan BSEE, CFEI Goodson Engineering Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) batteries have received much attention in recent years by the public at large but also by fire investigators and forensic engineers. This attention is primarily due to product recalls and exothermic battery failures caught on video and posted to the Internet. Due to this heightened awareness of battery volatility, entities that manufacture, distribute or sell batteries are being placed on notice of fire losses with much more frequency in the last few years. Once placed on notice and involved in a property loss investigation, these entities need to understand what it means to be placed on notice, how to respond, the fire investigation process and who to retain as their expert. earlier in the process allowing examination of the fire scene and later examination of evidence in a laboratory. Unfortunately for potential defendants, they are now placed on notice more frequently, resulting in higher investigation costs. Many times examination results exonerate a defense party although they have already spent significant dollars investigating, thus it may be viewed by some as wasted resources. However, it is almost always worth the time, effort, energy and dollars to participate in such investigations to determine the truth whether the potential defendant’s product is at fault or not. The purpose of notifying potential defendants of the loss and investigation is to afford all parties an equal opportunity investigation and prevent spoliation arguments. Spoliation of evidence is defined by NFPA 921 as “Loss, destruction or material alteration of an object or document that is evidence or potential evidence in a legal proceeding by one who has the responsibility for its preservation.”1 Many times potential defendants are overwhelmed by notification of a fire loss, particularly for the first time. They feel accused of causing the loss simply from the notice letter. This is not necessarily the case. The best scenario for forensic investigations is one that allows all parties equal opportunity. If potential defendants were left out, that party could make spoliation arguments, something no one wants. Therefore, all potential defendants within the origin are notified regardless of the likelihood of culpability. Please note that ASTM standard E860 Standard Practice For Examining And Preparing Items That Are Or May Become Involved In Criminal or Civil Litigation2 dictates the notification of potentially adverse parties. Due to the aforementioned visibility of Li-Ion battery failures, investigators are sure to notify battery entities. Prior to this visibility, many fire investigators would have dismissed a battery product as a fire cause simply because it was unplugged at the time of the fire. However, visibility has changed that perception and made all batteries fair game because fire investigators typically do not understand the difference in chemistries. This leaves battery entities defending legitimate claims and claims of batteries incapable of causing fire. Today, any cell or pack found in an origin area may result in notifying battery entities of loss.
The idea of lithium batteries has been around since the early 1970s and development of the Li-Ion battery as we know it today since the mid-1980s. Safety of lithium-based batteries has been a concern since the beginning. However, many strides have been made to improve cell safety, which by and large are safe. Nonetheless, periodically there are battery failures that result in exothermic events. This attention to the few exothermic events has created a situation where manufacturers, distributors and retailers of Li-Ion batteries found in the origin area of a fire loss are routinely placed on notice as a potential defendant. With so many products utilizing Li-Ion batteries, numerous fires across the globe will result in these entities being notified of losses as potential defendants.
Figure 1. Lithium-Ion 18650 Cell Heat Exposure
Response to Notification
The fire investigation profession has changed a lot through the years. In the past, potential defendants might not be notified of loss until after suit was filed. Today, when fire damage occurs, the widely accepted methodology is to determine fire origin and place the manufacturers of products in the origin area on notice as well as any service providers that previously performed work in the area. NFPA 921: Guide to Fire and Explosion Investigations1 has been instrumental in this movement. These improvements allow all parties the same investigation opportunities, thus leveling the playing field. Potential defendants are notified
Sometimes potential defendants are placed on notice and simply do not show for an examination. Certainly, there are times where potential defendants do not receive the notice or are given such short notice they cannot attend the proposed examination. When this happens, that argument may be made at some point. However, those potential defendants that simply ignore the notice as though the issue will go away need to understand that is unlikely. If they were notified but did not participate in the examination(s) their defense could be at a disadvantage as the fire scene may have been repaired and/or evidence altered. Such alteration of evidence may limit the investigation one can perform at a later time.
Battery Power • January/February 2013
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Battery Power - January/February 2013
Battery Power - January/February 2013
Table of Contents
GM, ABB Demonstrate Chevrolet Volt Battery Reuse Unit
Testing Requirements in the Electric Vehicle Industry
Nearing the Promise of the Micro-Hybrid Vehicles: Technology Improvements and New Markets
So You’ve Been Placed on Notice... Now What?
Advanced Numerical Simulation for Hybrid and Electric Vehicles
High-Voltage Battery Simulator and Test Systems Critical for Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Development
Key Elements to Assuring a Well Developed Verification Plan for Your Battery Powered Device
ICs & Semiconductors
Calendar of Events
Battery Power - January/February 2013