Samsung asks woman to return phone she says exploded and torched her car

(ABC NEWS)- Days after a Michigan woman claimed her Nissan Maxima was set on fire when one of her two Samsung cell phones “exploded,” she said the tech giant sent her a prefab kit to return the charred evidence.

According to the woman, in the kit was a pre-stamped manifest for ground transport, a pair of blue gloves, a static-sensitive bag and illustrated step-by-step instructions on how to mail back the remnants of the phone.

“Samsung asked her to use rubber gloves to take all the pieces from the car that look like part of the phone and put them in a pre-stamped box,” Gerald Thurswell, the attorney for the cell phone owner, told ABC News. “I hear this and it’s like ‘What the —-?’ Is this a regular course of business? How often is this occurring to get a whole set of procedures down?”

A Samsung spokesperson defended the practice in a statement to ABC News as strictly following federal guidelines put in place to protect the public with handling and shipping potentially dangerous or hazardous materials.

In a written statement to ABC News, Samsung urged caution on jumping to conclusions regarding the precise reason for the blaze.

“We stand behind the quality and safety of the millions of Samsung phones in the United States,” the company said. “We are eager to conduct a full investigation of this matter and until we are able to examine all of the evidence, it is impossible to determine the true cause of any incident. We go to great lengths to obtain all pertinent information in order to do a thorough analysis.”


The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, told Detroit ABC affiliate WXYZ she was driving down Evergreen Road near Fargo Street in Detroit at around 10 p.m. on May 21 with her Samsung Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S8 phones both placed in the car’s cupholder, “and in the corner of my eyes I see a spark.”

“I thought I was going to die when I saw the sparks and the fire,” she told WXYZ, as she quickly pulled over and hopped out of the burning vehicle. “It happened quickly. It just went up in flames. People were telling me to get away from the car. What if I was on the highway stuck in traffic and couldn’t get out?”


The woman claimed her mobile phone “exploded with flames and she dropped the phone onto some papers that were in the front seat,” according to a preliminary Detroit Fire Department incident report.


Chuck Simms, second deputy commissioner of the Detroit Fire Department, confirmed to ABC News that an engine was there within five minutes, and an investigation into the incident was opened. Arson was ruled out.

“It is not considered to be something suspicious,” Simms said, adding that the investigation is ongoing.

The woman said after she made her claim to Samsung, the company offered to replace the phone and sent her a kit with a small, cardboard box, a larger “recovery box” and other materials, including the gloves.

The instructions show a phone that reads “SAMSUNG Note7” — the model that last year was recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission amid widespread reports a battery defect caused several of those models to explode or catch fire.

Last year, a separate recall was issued by the same agency for certain refurbished AT&T Samsung Galaxy 4 models sent through FedEx that were powered by batteries and found to overheat.

Thurswell said that instead of sending back the remains of the woman’s phones, he told Samsung they could analyze the devices at his law office.

“They came here with an engineer and spent two hours examining the pieces and they tell me, ‘We’ll get back to you,'” Thurswell recalled. “I told them, ‘Please get these phones recalled. Do something. You’re the experts!'”

He said he hasn’t filed a lawsuit, but he wants to hear back from the company after the investigators visited last week.

Samsung told ABC News the company has attempted to reach the woman.

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