B.C. e-bike lithium battery company denies fatal fire liability

Battery maker denies blame

One of two companies involved in e-bike battery production and sales has denied liability for a fatal Jan. 31, 2022 fire that claimed the life of a Vancouver man.

In a B.C. Supreme Court Jan. 30 notice of civil claim, Kellyann Sharples alleged spouse Tim Lilley died in an apartment fire caused by a defective lithium-ion battery.

While the claim said none of the battery packs were charging, it said if one begins to overheat it can affect other packs and cause a chain reaction.

“Jets of flaming gas venting from the tops of cells in the e-bike battery turned each into a tiny, unguided metal rocket,” said one of three notices of civil claim filed by Sharples.

“These loose cells ricocheted around the room, igniting new fires and spreading the blaze radically and erratically, trapping the plaintiff and Mr. Lilley,” the claims said.

The court documents said the couple had both e-bikes and e-scooters and that four battery packs were stored under a living room table. The claim said the events caused a “flashover” in which “every exposed flammable surface in a room ignites simultaneously.”

The pair had gone to bed on Jan. 30, 2022 and were awakened by a bang.

It was Lilley who went to see what happened and was soon yelling “fire” and telling his spouse to get out.

Sharples said she called to Lilley but got no response.

“She tried to crawl toward him in the living room but was driven back into the bedroom by heat, thick smoke and flaming projectiles — loose battery cells including those from the e-bike — which struck her legs, causing burns,” the claim said.

Sharples said she escaped by shattering a bedroom window and climbing across a ledge four storeys above the ground to a neighbour’s balcony.

The claim said when such batteries are comprised of multiple cells wired together, when one overheats, a thermal chemical can occur creating immense heat.

Sharples claim said that’s what began the fire in the couple’s living room.

Response to the lawsuit

Among multiple companies named in Sharples’ court action are Daymak, Inc., and Royer Batteries Corporation.

Royer’s March 7 response to the notice of claim denied the fire was ignited by a lithium-ion battery charging in the living room.

Royer said it was contacted by Sharples in June 2021 but denied that it had inspected and serviced the battery prior to its failure as Sharples claimed.

The defendants denied a battery was responsible for the fire.

Royer said the fire was caused by negligence on the part of Lilley or Daymak.

Royer said that negligence by Sharples and Lilley could include:

• failure to exercise reasonable care and prudent judgment in maintaining their lithium-ion batteries and electric two-wheeled vehicles;

• improperly charging their lithium-ion batteries;

• failing to provide adequate supervision while the lithium-ion batteries were charging;

• improperly storing lithium-ion batteries;

• failing to charge their lithium-ion batteries in a well-ventilated area;

• leaving their lithium-ion batteries unattended for long periods of time while charging;

• using incorrect chargers for the lithium-ion batteries;

• tampering with and/or altering the electric two-wheeled vehicles, lithium-ion batteries, and battery chargers; and,

• failing to exercise reasonable care in all of the circumstances.

Royer suggested Daymak:

• failed to take reasonable care in the design, manufacture, distribution, marketing, and sale of their electric two-wheeled vehicles, lithium-ion batteries, and charging systems;

• failed to incorporate adequate, redundant safeguards against overcharging, overheating, fire, and/or explosion into their charging systems;

• designed a lithium-ion battery and charging system that was inherently dangerous;

• failed to design and specify adequate inspection, service, and/or repair protocols for their lithium-ion batteries, including failing to identify conditions which could indicate the presence of dangerous defects;

• failed to implement an adequate quality control program to ensure the receipt of materials of sufficient quality from its suppliers; and,

• failed to warn users, adequately or at all, about hazards of lithium-ion batteries; and, including overcharging.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

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