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Dell sued for $1.4m over battery fire

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 17/07/2017

A Whangamata couple is suing computer giant Dell after their $2 million lodge was damaged beyond repair in a fire caused by a defective laptop battery.

The fire at the property in January 2014, which had a market value of $1.94m, meant it could only be re-sold for $500,000.

The couple are now seeking more than $1.4 million in damages.

The lawsuit in the High Court at Auckland, brought by Denise and Gordon McGregor - as Wentworth Retreat Limited - states the defective lithium ion battery in their Dell laptop exploded during the night after the family had been watching a DVD of photographs.

The fire caused significant damage to the lodge's main building and firefighters were unable to save it - a subsequent investigation by a fire investigator confirmed the laptop battery exploded, their claim states.

The breaches claimed by the property owners include that Dell failed to ensure the laptop was free of any defect that could pose a risk to public safety and that it was known the ion batteries were capable of bursting into flames.

Documents showing the recall of Dell batteries in 2006, 2008 and 2009 have been put forward to support the McGregors' claim.

Dell denies liability and has added Gray's Auctions Ltd - which sold the laptop online to the McGregors - as a third party under the claim.

Dell has also offered a number of defences.

It says Wentworth Retreat was removed from the companies register in 2015, so no proceeding can be issued in its name; the McGregors were covered by insurance and did not adhere to the laptop's instructions and warnings; and the building that was destroyed did not comply with the New Zealand Building Code for fire protection.

Associate Judge Roger Bell has said there is cause for a case and has ordered discovery documents to be filed by Dell, in order to defend the claim, including about battery and laptop recalls, before August 14.

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