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Laptops Setting Bedroom Fires: Myth or Product Liability?

Posted by on Sep 5, 2013

A popular story that has been circulating by email and on social networks is misleading, although there is a possibility of product liability in specific instances.

The story about how a laptop left on the bed caused the fire which killed its sleeping 25-year-old owner is mostly true, except for the part about what caused it. The young graduate named in the story, Arun Gopalratnam, did actually die from a house fire in June 2010 but fire experts have not determined how the fire got started in the first place.

It is possible that a laptop ignited the fire, but only if there was some type of defect involved. The story was circulated to warn the public about how leaving a laptop on the bed would cause the unit to overheat because the vents are blocked and start a fire is inaccurate. A laptop would not normally cause a fire unless the wiring is defective or the battery is faulty. If, in fact a house fire is caused by a laptop and it was found that unit was defective, it could be the basis for a product liability lawsuit. In general, however, laptops are not a fire hazard, covered vent or not.

That having been said, it is not recommended to keep electronic gadgets such as computers, game consoles, and the like near combustible materials such as pillows and beds. Defects are usually not apparent until an accident happens.

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