Allegedly Defective DVD Player Causes Fire


This case involves a defective DVD player that was sold at a large retailer. The DVD player in question contained one page of instructions, mostly indicating that the DVD player should not be kept in an environment above 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The plaintiff purchased the DVD player and placed it in his family room in a wooden cabinet beneath his television. On the day in question, the plaintiff and his family decided to watch three movies in a row. After four hours, the family decided to go for a walk, pausing the movie to go outside. While outside, the DVD player caught on fire, burning the cabinet and most of the family room. By the time the family returned, the fire had spread to parts of the kitchen, and the family called 911. Upon the fire department’s arrival, the fire had consumed most of the first floor. Additionally, four weeks after the fire, the retailer issued a recall of the DVD player.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • How can a small device or automotive electronics be examined for a defect?

Expert Witness Response

In cases for design or manufacturing defects in electronics (like a DVD player), the specific item has to be considered. For DVD players, the cooling system is largely dependent on the placement of vents and fans throughout the device. In most cases, the vents are either placed in the top or sides of the device, and utilize fans to cool the device during extended usage. Also, features can be included to help with the cooling of the device. For example, if the device has a tray, while requiring more energy, enables the device to quickly expel heat if needed. Also, some devices are designed to shut down if the device reaches a particular temperature. Given the different safety features that are found in other devices, I would first examine the existence of these features on the device in question. The design of the device, including the fans and vent placement would indicate if the specific design was made with the intent to adequately cool device during foreseeable usage. Also, the specific device in question should be examined, and compared to both the original designs and a brand new device.

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