B.C. couple fears losing home if Apple doesn't cover fire damage blamed on iPhone
Meredith MacLeod, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, March 5, 2018 1:47PM EST
Last Updated Monday, March 5, 2018 7:06PM EST
A British Columbia couple says they will lose their home – for the second time – if Apple doesn’t pay them $600,000 after an October 2016 house fire that officials initially linked to a charging iPhone.
Cathy and Ian Finley, parents of two daughters, got $600,000 from their insurance company but they say it didn’t cover the full cost of rebuilding, or the lost income from the farm they had to shut down.
They say they have borrowed money, mostly from equity in their land, to rebuild and try to reopen their farm, where they held camps and tours. But the couple says they only have enough to stay about a year before they will be forced to sell.
They fear Apple will drag the matter out in court beyond their breaking point. Cathy Finley says she and her husband just want to be in same financial position as they were the day before the fire.
“We aren’t the only people this has happened to. A lot of people have reached out to us and sent us stories and photos,” she told CTV’s Your Morning on Monday. “I want to know from Apple why they didn’t respond on the first day and why they weren’t honest with us. We would have made very different decisions had they been honest about the litigation process we would have to go through.”
The couple says they would likely have sold the land and left with their equity rather than borrowing to rebuild had they known how long a resolution would take.
Cathy Finley says initial emailed conversations with Apple seemed promising, with a case worker saying Apple would make things right, but nothing came of it. She says, when she started to call, she was endlessly redirected or hung up on. When Apple eventually asked how much they were seeking and received a list of costs, Cathy Finley says “they lawyered up and shut down communication with us.”
An Apple spokesperson confirmed to CTVNews.ca that the company is looking into the customer’s claim but has not yet been able to analyze the device. It is in the possession of the Finleys' insurance company, The Co-operators.
"We are ready to arrange for an inspection of the phone as soon as all parties have representatives who can attend," Co-operators spokesperson Leonard Sharman told CTVNews.ca via email.
Cathy Finley says she plugged in her three-month-old iPhone 6 to charge it on Oct. 13 and headed out to feed her goats. About 20 minutes later, she saw smoke coming from her house. The heat was too intense to enter and the family lost almost everything.
Langley Assistant Fire Chief Pat Walker says the iPhone and charger, which was directly plugged into the wall, were found in the area of the fire’s origin, a living room chair. There were no other electrical or heating devices that could have contributed to the fire, he says.
Officials who found the charred device while investigating reported that, "It would appear that the phone or charger generated enough heat to ignite the leather chair and notebook and start the fire.” But an official cause of the fire was not determined.
The iPhone was sent to a private lab, which was tasked with assessing whether there was some fault in the device, says Walker. Data from lab testing is collected and analyzed provincially to determine if there are trends that would warrant a recall or public safety bulletin. Walker says he’s heard nothing back from the lab about the iPhone in this case.
Fires in cell phones frequently make headlines but Walker says they are relatively rare.
“It’s important to consider the frequency of these fires given the number of devices that are out there. We have no indication that there is a problem.”
Nonetheless, Walker only charges his cell phone on a granite counter top, never on a combustible surface. And he suggests phone users carefully follow the manufacturer’s suggestions for charging and always invest in good quality charging cords and power bars.
The Finleys have recorded all phone conversations with Apple representatives and have posted them, along with all emails online. They’ve also launched a petition, which has more than 2,100 signatures.
In one recorded phone conversation, Cathy Finley says: “It’s enough. It’s 17 months since the fire and we cannot go on. We’re losing our property. We’ve lost our business. Our mental wellbeing is just in tatters. As you can hear, we can barely talk to you.”
On the Change.org petition page, she writes: “I'm angry at being treated like an insignificant nobody. We lost our home, everything we owned, our emotional well-being and now our business because of them. The way they have treated us is, at best, neglectful and at worst cruel.”