Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
A Bernalillo County man has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. subsidiary of Chinese telecom giant ZTE Corp., alleging that one of the company’s cellphones set his home on fire and that the resulting blaze gave him “permanent and life-altering” injuries.
According to the 1st Judicial District Court lawsuit filed this week in Santa Fe, Jose Perez plugged his ZTE Zmax Pro Blu into a charger on the evening of Nov. 8, 2017. He alleges that he fell asleep with the phone on the edge of the bed and that when he awoke in the middle of the night, he discovered “his bed was engulfed in fire.”
“Jose’s life would be forever changed,” the complaint says. “He remained hospitalized or in (a) skilled nursing unit from the night of the fire until just recently. He sustained third-degree burns so significant he is unable to walk for any period of extended time without assistance.”
The lawsuit alleges that the ZTE phone in question was designed in a way that makes it susceptible to overheating, and that Perez’s phone ignited as a result of this design.
Defendants named in the suit are ZTE USA Inc., as well as MetroPCS Texas LLC and the Santa Fe- and Albuquerque-based Ultimate Wireless CSR LLC, entities the lawsuit claims are liable for purportedly selling and distributing the phone to Perez.
ZTE and MetroPCS did not respond to a request for comment. Calls to multiple numbers associated with Ultimate Wireless either reached a message saying the number had been disconnected or rang without answer.
Perez’s attorney, Michael Lyons of the Texas-based firm Deans and Lyons, said Perez’s medical bills have totaled more than $1 million, and that his client lost all of his possessions and savings in the fire.
“Outside of dying, I can’t imagine a worse situation for a human being to encounter,” he said.
The lawsuit does not give a specific location of the home, but Lyons said it was in the Albuquerque area.
The lawsuit seeks punitive and compensatory damages, including those for economic loss, future medical expenses and future pain and suffering.
ZTE isn’t the only technology company to deal with allegations of device-related fires in recent years. In 2016, Samsung recalled about 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7 phones globally after reports of the device igniting while it charged. It was the largest phone recall in history.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration banned U.S. firms from exporting technology to ZTE after the company admitted shipping U.S.-made parts to Iran and North Korea, a violation of American trade sanctions against those countries. The company has since replaced its corporate leadership, and the U.S. has allowed it to resume certain business activities with organizations here.