Unsafe Surge Protector Spontaneously Combusts in College Dorm


A college student was killed in his apartment after a defective surge protector caused a fire while he slept. Though the fire damaged the apartment unit badly, the serial number of the surge protector was able to be retrieved, and the student’s family consequently sued the manufacturing company. The ensuing court case required an electrical engineer with expertise in investigating similar fires and explaining whether the surge protector led to combustion.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Do you have electrical engineering experience with a product similar to the one in this case?
  • 2. Are you able to work with a surge protector design expert to help determine what may have happened from an electrical engineering perspective?

Expert Witness Response E-001181

Expert-ID: E-001181

An investigation of this nature involves careful review of the fire investigator’s report, including a review of the surroundings and other electrical devices present. It will almost certainly involve acquiring and examining exemplar devices during the course of the investigation. There are many ways these devices, which include relocatable power taps and surge protectors, can fail resulting in fire. I have broad experience with surge protection devices and associated electrical equipment in fire causation cases, including recent experience with a matter very similar to this incident. My qualifications include a terminal PhD in electrical engineering, specific training in fire investigation involving electrical devices as well as the Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator credential. I’ve worked on these matters for over twenty years.

Expert Witness Response E-008490

I currently work in compliance and safety engineering for a premium energy intelligence and power protection firm which manufactures high-end surge protectors. I surge products all the time, and I happen to also be a Certified Fire Investigator and hold a Masters in electrical engineering.

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