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Incendiary MacBook blamed in house conflag inferno suit

Bonfire of the vanities

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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 Seventy-Five Thousand Dollars" to Eric and Penelope Marziali of Glastonbury for "severe and extensive damage to their real and personal property" after their daughter's MacBook Pro set her bedroom on fire.

Luckily, daughter Carolyn happened to be sleeping in a different room that night.

We'll let excerpts from the complaint, filed earlier this month, tell the story:

On or before May 23, 2008, Carolyn Marziali had plugged the MagSafe power adapter into an outlet above a desk in an alcove in her bedroom at the residence.

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.

On May 23, 2008, the MagSafe adapter ignited combustible materials within the residence of Eric and Penelope Marziali, causing a fire.

After being awaken[ed] by a smoke detector, Eric Marziali investigated the source of the alarm and entered Carolyn's bedroom where he observed heavy fire that appeared to him [that] was in the area of the desk in the alcove and moving from that area into the bedroom.

The complaint goes on to say the the town fire marshal's "detailed investigation" had determined that the fire was caused by "external system components" of the MacBook Pro.

It's a safe bet that would be the MagSafe adapter — the defective connector that has already been named in at least one lawsuit, has burned at least one Reg reader, and has earned the sobriquet "Sparky the wonder adapter" due to such postings on Apple's own discussion boards such as "Magsafe connected MELTED," "MagSafe Melting," and "My Adapter is melting..."

As the suit points out, "Unknown to the Marzialis in 2007 and 2008, Apple had received numerous complaints posted on its own Apple store website alerting Apple to heating, burning and sparking problems with its MagSafe adapters."

Also apparently unknown to the unfortunate Glastonburians was the treasure trove of defective-MagSafe images on flickr and Google.

In 2008, Apple instituted a free out-of-warranty replacement program for some MagSafe adapters after it acknowledged that some had insulation that could work its way loose from the magnetic block.

Clearly, though, Jobs & Co. should more-aggressively pursue the replacement of the faulty parts. The replacement program needs to upgraded to a full-scale recall, with the US Consumer Products Safety Commission requiring Apple to notify all owners of MacBooks with potentially faulty MagSafe adapters.

This time, Carolyn Marziali was sleeping in another bedroom, and her MacBook Pro wasn't adjacent to, for example, highly flammable curtains.

The next time the MagSafe strikes, someone might not be so lucky. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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