UK family: Apple offered 'exploding iPod' hush money in exchange for refund

Apple's iPod Touch is the latest device to succumb to a lithium-ion battery explosion, but as the Times of London first reported this morning, Apple reportedly wanted to keep the issue a secret.

When Ken Stanborough of the UK dropped his daughter's iPod Touch last month, the device began hissing, burning, and then eventually exploded in "a big puff of smoke, and it went 10 feet in the air." Stansborough said he went to Apple for a refund, and was only promised a refund if he would sign a paper stating he would "agree that you will keep the terms and existence of this settlement agreement completely confidential."

Any breach of the contract would have "result[ed] in Apple seeking injunctive relief, damages and legal costs against the defaulting persons or parties."

Instead of signing the agreement, Stanborough went to the press.

"They're putting a life sentence on myself, my daughter and Ellie's mum, not to say anything to anyone," the Liverpool resident told the Times. "If we inadvertently did say anything, no matter what, they would take litigation against us. I thought that was absolutely appalling."

Lithium-ion batteries are well-known for frequently overheating, bursting into flames, and sometimes even explode. Companies such as Sony, Dell, HP, Research in Motion, and tons of others have all had to conduct recalls in some form over dangerous Li-Ion Batteries.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has tried to make it irrefutably clear that the increased power of Li-Ion batteries comes at a price, issuing repeated warnings that they are more susceptible to damage from stress. A voluntary standards document issued by the Commission says, "High energy chemistry batteries include lithium ion and lithium metal polymer that are thinner, smaller, and lighter weight and contain more energy than traditional rechargeable batteries. While conventional battery chemistries, such as lead acid, pose fire and explosion hazards that must be considered, the combination of high energy packed into a small volume and a volatile chemistry requires special safeguards to minimize potential hazards. Batteries with larger capacities often need more safety circuits and additional care when using and handling, with or without the equipment; and batteries must be properly tested with the product and charger as a system."

In 2005, the CPSC issued a joint statement with CTIA about Li-Ion batteries, saying "Li-Ion batteries are more sensitive to physical stress than alkaline batteries...and need to be treated with more care."

Indeed, there is plenty of videographic evidence of the volatility of Li-Ion batteries, but the limits of a device's durability varies from object to object.

There is not yet proof that simply dropping any iPod Touch will result in a grenade-like reaction.

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