Gray woman claims Samsung phone exploded, destroyed her car; company responds

Tony Casey • Updated Dec 15, 2016 at 12:12 AM

Nov. 24 was almost a day like any other for Gray’s Johnnie Hyatt.

After her shift at a local call center, Hyatt tried to unlock the driver’s-side door of her 2016 Toyota Camry. She couldn’t.

When she walked around and opened the passenger side door, flames and smoke came out of the interior.

“When I clocked out at 3:15, I came out to get in the car to leave, and my car was on fire,” Hyatt said. “The Samsung S7 had exploded and totaled my new car.”

About 45 minutes earlier, Hyatt had gone out to her car to check her phone, as she often would on her break. Returning to work, she had left the smartphone in the driver’s-side door compartment under the handle.

The flames eventually went out and the smoke cleared, but what was left was completely melted. She said it destroyed the driver’s-side section of her car’s interior, seeming to originate exactly where she’d left the phone. The phone itself was melted.

In the middle of all the melted plastic was a pile of pink — the melted phone case she used to protect the phone.

From what Hyatt has read online, the same scenario has happened to other people with Samsung Galaxy S7 phones.

After the fire, Hyatt said she contacted both Samsung and Toyota, but said she has no doubt the phone was the culprit and not the vehicle. Both companies blamed the other for causing the explosion, she said.

Earlier this year, after reported explosions and fires, Samsung announced a voluntary recall of all original and replacement Galaxy Note 7 devices sold or exchanged in the United States in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and in partnership with carriers and retailers.

Samsung cites overheating as a possible safety risk, and is asking customers to power down phones and contact the retailer from which they bought their device.

A Samsung spokeswoman responded to a Press inquiry about Hyatt’s situation specifically.

“Samsung stands behind the quality and safety of the more than 10 million Galaxy S7 family phones in the U.S.,” the statement read. “We have reached out to Ms. Hyatt to learn more about what happened. Until Samsung is able to obtain and examine any device, it is impossible to determine the true cause of any incident. Mobile phones are complex devices and there are many factors that could contribute to their malfunction.”

The spokeswoman said any customer who has questions or experiences an issue with a Samsung product should contact them directly at 1-800-SAMSUNG.

Last week, to force remaining owners to return their phones, Samsung announced a software update for the Galaxy Note 7 phones that would prevent them from charging their batteries, essentially rendering them useless.

Hyatt said her research indicated the same battery in the Galaxy Note 7 is in the Samsung S7.

Hyatt can’t think of any reason the phone would have exploded, though she did drop the phone earlier in the day.

Damage to the car hit a total of $8,000, which her insurance company covered, but she was without a car for three weeks. For a new phone, she’s had to pay out of pocket for the insurance claim — ultimately paying $150 for the same phone that she believes exploded in her car.

This makes her extremely nervous, as a single mother to a 5-year-old.

“What if I had been driving down the road, and handed the phone to her and said, ‘Baby play your game until we get where we're going,’ and then it exploded?” she asked.

Past the point of a Samsung resolution, Hyatt said she was considering seeking legal counsel.

Email Tony Casey at [email protected]. Follow Tony Casey on Twitter @TonyCaseyJCP. Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tonycaseyjournalist.