back to article Incendiary MacBook blamed in house conflag inferno suit

Apple's oft-derided MagSafe power adapter is being blamed for a fire in a Connecticut home, and the insurance company that paid for the resulting damage is suing Apple to recover its payout. The Great Northern Insurance Company has filed suit in the US District Court in that New England state to recover payments "in excess of …


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  1. Alan Denman

    An unplacement program of course.

    On the basis that no publicity is good publicity it seems more than a fair few do not know about the replacement program.

    Recalls are just 'not Apple'.

  2. Mike OReilly

    A Deep Thought

    Has there been an Apple product that did NOT have a spontaneous combustion issue?

    1. Terry Barnes
      Jobs Horns


      Maybe people aren't holding it right?

  3. VinceH

    Letters, Digits.

    Isn't it about time Apple adopted another iWord for something of theirs? In this case, the iBurn.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      abc 123


      1. VinceH

        Letters, Digits.

        But the i in iNcendiary is already there, unlike the i in iPhone, iPod etc until Apple added it*. Plus the pronounciation is wrong, and the others were one syllable words (before the i was added*).

        * The words were iPlussed.

  4. Marcos Scriven
    Thumb Down

    I remember...

    ... coming back into the room to find my Magsafe literally spewing acrid fumes. It was the old design, where the cable was perpendicular to the plug, rather than in line.

    Apple replaced it in store, but were totally unconcerned about the obvious fire risk.

  5. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    Why is this news?

    So there have been about a two dozen problems then? Doesn't sound bad for a product that has sold hundreds of thousands, if not millions.

    Simple answer, make sure everything is turned off before you go to bed. The only thing that stays on in my house overnight is the NAS box I have. Save a few quid and have peace of mind that you will most likely not awake in the middle of a blazing inferno.

    1. Bunglebear

      Not just fires

      Its not just the fires, you are probably correct that only a few dozen have occurred and been serious enough to warrant publicity. But the problem of the adaptor overheating and melting , as shown on the Apple forums, is very widespread and there are obviously fundamental design flaws with the MagSafe adaptors.

      I know Apple likes to think it can do no wrong, but this is not a case of faulty antennae or something minor - people could have been killed. A recall is the least they could do.

    2. Terry Barnes
      Thumb Down


      Simple answer is actually - don't make, or buy, products that catch fire.

      It's ludicrous to claim that the user is somehow culpable by leaving something turned on. A fire could just as easily happen during the day, and people running backups might need to leave something turned on overnight.

    3. MrCheese

      It's news because...

      Well, for starters I don't own any other appliancs that threaten to burn me alive if I don't unplug them and close second would be that if I did own a life-threatening appliance I wouldn't get a flat-out denial of the problem of very begrudging warranty replacement.

      What makes and otherwise run of the mill product defect newsworthy is the Jobsian Mob's attitude towards taking responsiblility for the shoddy workmanship you pay the Crapple tax for.

    4. madhatt3r

      buy a new house

      not that big of a deal

  6. Anonymous Coward

    They won't recall....'s more expensive to recall than just pay out the victims. Even if someone dies, it's still cheaper.

    Only when the cost of replacement is cheaper than not replacing will they swap out. Unfortunalty it will most likely take someone to die for this to happen. Not because of the lawsuit, but becuase of the brand damage. Of course then it will be a "good will gesture", not an admition of liabilty.

    Welcome to he world of big business & insurance, where despite the marketing bullshit you are fed, they really don't give a shit about the consumer.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They won't recall.... - check out computer equipment and battery/adapter/ power supply categories for long lists of products withdrawn from the US market for safety reasons.

      If a product is dangerous companies will recall. It is much cheaper to do this than to be caught trying to hide the fact that you know your product is dangerous.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        @ Drew C

        "If a product is dangerous companies will recall."

        Not always. You should do an internet search for "The Ford Pinto Memo". Maybe Apple have the same mindset as Ford did in 1973, that it's cheaper to 'let their customers burn'...

        1. Daniel B.

          @Stike Vomit

          In fact it is because of the infamous Ford Pinto that most sensible companies now prefer to err on the safe side. Of course, Apple and it's "there ain't no problem" culture means that most of these cases are shunned. Unfortunately, it seems that like the Ford Pinto, someone will have to actually DIE during a MagSafe-induced fire for Apple to be forced to admit the damn thing is unsafe.

      2. Tom 13

        If the CPSC really did what they are charged with doing

        the list of incidents cataloged in the comments on this page would have forced them to issue the recall notice. But Apple is politically well connected and therefore isn't worried about it.

      3. heyrick Silver badge

        cpsc... Stupid site.

        Type "apple" in the box on the right for a simple search? Nothing. With and without NoScript active.

        Look at the list of "Computer Equipment"? Hey-hey, there's and I think I saw another further down.

        So maybe even if you went LOOKING for a recall, decided to quick-search for Apple stuff, and got told "No recalls were announced for any product containing the letters you typed." As I said, stupid site.

  7. Lord Raa

    Unsettling number of Apple "Issues"

    It seems that Apple products have a few more quality control issues than other hardware manufacturers.

    Is it because Apple are in the public eye more and therefore are more likely to be reported upon or are there more Apple branded products out there to catch fire than any other manufacturer?

    Either way, I'm glad that no-one was hurt in this incident.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    It just burns (TM)

    See title

  9. Johnny Canuck


    I couldn't help hearing the tune to "There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea" when I read "The other end of the MagSafe adapter was connected to the MacBook Pro computer on the desk in the alcove of Carolyn Marziali's bedroom in the residence."

  10. CADmonkey

    Reminds me of that line in Fight Club

    "A new car built by my company leaves somewhere traveling at 60 mph. The rear differential locks up. The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now, should we initiate a recall? Take the number of vehicles in the field, A, multiply by the probable rate of failure, B, multiply by the average out-of-court settlement, C. A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one. "

  11. Juan Inamillion

    And in other news...

    Toyota recall a million cars, accelerator issue.

    Honda car recall after air bag issue.

    Sony battery recall affects HP, Toshiba, Dell, Lenovo laptops.

    Sony Vaio laptop recall due to burn hazard.

    Ah but it's much more fun to bash Apple these days isn't it.

    All manufacturers do their utmost to avoid 'issues' for very obvious reasons. No one in their right mind is going to let something flaky pass quality control.

    In testing and research manufacturers do try to as far as possible to make sure that components wont fail when used in normal conditions and according to their anticipated use .

    I've seen dozens, if not hundreds, of laptop connectors (mostly Apple) and the only ones I've seen to fail are those where the owner disconnects the adapter by pulling the cable instead of the plug and/or by generally twisting, treading on, letting the cat chew the cable. In ordinary use i.e by exercising the care expected when using an item of considerable value, there isn't a problem.

    One of the other poster here has it right by saying leaving electrical equipment on while away or asleep is taking a risk. Ask anyone who has come back to a burning home because of a faulty washing machine/dish washer/tumble dryer (I know victims in each of those categories).

    The whole article was a trolling, fuck knows why I bother...

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Matthew 25

      @Juan Inamillion

      The point is that when these companies realized there was a significant problem they issued a recall. Where is Apples recall? With so many posts on their own website you would have thought they would realize there was a problem and act to mitigate.

    3. thesykes

      read your own post...

      "Toyota recall"

      "Honda car recall"

      "Sony battery recall"

      "Sony Vaio laptop recall"

      Do you see a common word in those phrases? A word Apple aren't willing to use?

    4. MrCheese

      That's right, we're all just Apple baching again!

      "Toyota recall a million cars, accelerator issue.

      Honda car recall after air bag issue.

      Sony battery recall affects HP, Toshiba, Dell, Lenovo laptops.

      Sony Vaio laptop recall due to burn hazard.

      Ah but it's much more fun to bash Apple these days isn't it"

      In all of your above examples the manufacturers had the hubris to issue a recall and take the potential loss of sales and damage to the brand and reputation, Apple on the other hand give you a great big "STFU n00b!!" and bury their heads in their marketing BS. I don't know about anyone else but that's what my beef is with this...

      1. Hollerith 1


        'hubris' means 'chancing your luck',' tempting the gods to put you back in your place'. I think you menat, possibly, cojones.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    User Error

    "It's ludicrous to claim that the user is somehow culpable by leaving something turned on. A fire could just as easily happen during the day, and people running backups might need to leave something turned on overnight."

    Not so, there was a previous case on the reg where a woman journalist had a similar issue and bleated on about it, only to agree she had put the laptop under the sofa whilst on charge to prevent it being seen and stolen. Clearly stupid (and if she had bothered to read the instructions she would have seen the error of her ways).

    Similarly in this case, we do not know if it was indeed just on the desk, or if the power supply was for instance was under a load of paperwork which could have caused it to overheat, or if the cable was visibly damaged and the user had simply ignored the issue.

    Similarly there are quite often cases of laptops in general having issues like this, its not just apple but as always it's more news worthy.

    And no I'm not a fanboy I have a windows 7 desktop (plus an old xp one - retired, an old 98 one - retired), a Macbook Pro, eee pc and my business runs over 35 linux servers.

  13. David Neil

    @ Juan Inamillion

    Are you serious?

    The product appears to have a flaw by design, doesn't matter who makes it.

    I recall multiple articles about Sony batteries going pop, Dell laptops catching fire, Toyota's crashing, but when it's the great fruit then it's a troll.

  14. Juan Inamillion

    @David Neil

    The design, from my perspective in IT support, seems reasonably fine from my experience. Certainly the earlier 'barrel' design was more prone to damage by mishandling than the magsafe variety.

    Problems have only arisen through abuse, is what I'm saying. And from the hundreds of thousands of these adaptors in use around the world, a comparatively small number have a problem. We also don't and probably never will now whether the adapter that started the fire had 'issues' already.

    I'm not defending Apple per se, I'm just trying to illustrate some perspective with regard to manufacturing processes.

    1. Tom 13

      One man's abuse is another man's

      expected usage pattern. Here in The States the courts don't differentiate. Hence things like warnings not to stand on the tops of step ladders and McDonalds having to issue warnings that their coffee is hot and may injure you if you spill it.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Mine expired in a whiff of sparks and smoke....

    ...I wondered what the smell of burning peanuts was - and found it wasn't any of KP's finest, but my MagSafe. A section had burnt clean open and putrid brown, exposing wire from which the most dazzling 2001-style lightshow was eminating.

    Can't we just have a *normal* AC adapter, Apple? Personally I've never felt the need to be coddled from tripping over my cable - because I, like, totally look where I'm going, dude.

    1. Pandy06269

      Lucky you

      "Can't we just have a *normal* AC adapter, Apple? Personally I've never felt the need to be coddled from tripping over my cable - because I, like, totally look where I'm going, dude."

      Actually it's saved my bacon (well my MBP) a couple of times. Yes, I look where I'm going. Accidents still happen.

  16. Anonymous Coward


    He was probably using one of the cheap ebay chinese power adaptors we read about being unsafe last week. Or "external system component" could have been something plugged in via USB.

  17. g e

    Homage to Total Recall...?

    Avoid the housefire

    Of a lifetime

    Recall, Recall, Recall

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I suspect...

    ...that Apple will get away with it. The report says that some equipment attached to the laptop caused the fire, not what specific peice of equipment it was. If there's a chance it was a third party peice of kit that caused the fire Apple will play that for all it's worth.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Build a man a fire and he'll be warm for a day.

    Set Steve Jobs on fire and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.

  20. FerretOfDoom


    The "attached peripheral" was actually a USB Missile Launcher that was inadvertently loaded with live warheads.

  21. thecakeis(not)alie

    Wait, wait, wait.

    I am not known for posting good things about, well...anyone. Apple is a company that in many cases I hold in fairly low regard...they are subject to much of my more negative ranting.

    "Oft-derided MagSafe power adapter," though? Really? The Magsafe power adapter is one of the (if not /the/) single best devices Apple has ever deployed. It is an absolute genius device that is quite frankly light years ahead of the power connector tech used by 95%+ of the other companies. The vast majority of Notebook failures I see are either fans getting scuffed full of crap/overheating or "the power socket solder joints broke off the mobo because the power connector is shite."

    I don't care if a few of these things have caught fire/melted. The failure rates reported are /very/ small. I've had power adapters from many companies go up in similar ways.

    Shart all over Apple for a great many things if you want...the Magsafe adapter is quite simply NOT one of the things for which they deserve it.

  22. Alan Denman

    not good enoigh to have a recall though.

    Walk into a store and you get a free replacement if you are well informed.

    Apple know these things are fire risks in that the first design was without extra sleeving at the connecting joint.

    Yet still they did not issue a safety recall.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I told them so

      After my daughter's Magsafe Macbook charger began failing I went in to look at what the problem was. I was floored that the design allowed for the inner insulation to fail and arc to the woven outer conductor right where it met the laptop. It was an obvious fire hazard in my eyes and I went to the extra effort to post a note on one of Apple's "contact us" pages (forget which one) informing them that the chargers can/will start a fire. No reply, No interest.

      I think a strong lawsuit might get their attention eventually. Then again, they own the police out there...

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Flaky connectors

    Having repaired my fair share of non-Magsafe connectors, mostly of the "snapped off inner connector" variety I have only ever seen one where the connector failed in an unsafe way i.e. with smoke and sparks caused by damaged insulation.

    On most sensibly designed adaptors if the inner shorts to the outer it just shuts down hard, resulting in having to disconnect from the mains before it will enable again.

    The PCB inside the Magsafe has an LED and controller chip, which seems to only enable the output when it is connected for this very reason, good design but unfortunately it can fail because a partial short keeps the board powered while feeding into a resistance. Resistance = heat = connector goes into Chernobyl-like meltdown while the adaptor sits there happy as a clam.

    I dismantled a "failed" Magsafe connector a while back and the insulation does look very weak compared with a lot of other connectors, perhaps this is going back to the whole "value engineered" issue.

    Perhaps part of the solution might be to add a finger grip and reinforcement so that the connector can be removed without pulling on the vulnerable lead as it appears that this adds to the degradation over time, and improve their fault detection system with an error light and trip on the adaptor itself, and replaceable leads because people really hate paying £100+ for a new adaptor.

    AC, because they should have integrated the mains adaptor into the laptop by now...

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