The use of electronic cigarettes has exploded in recent years, as tens of thousands of consumers switch from traditional, “combustible” cigarettes to battery-powered vaporizers. There’s more to this booming industry, however, than historic sales. At an alarming rate, e cig batteries are exploding, starting fires and causing devastating burns.
Some users have been severely injured, but they’re beginning to fight back. By filing product liability lawsuits, consumers hope to prevent future injuries, while holding the manufacturers of defective e cig batteries and vape shops accountable.
After E Cig Explosions, Injured Users Pursue Justice
The lawyers at Lipsig, Shapey, Manus & Moverman are leading the way in this growing litigation. Led by Marc Freund, Esq., a Partner at Lipsig, Shapey, Manus & Moverman, our experienced product liability attorneys have begun accepting exploding e cig lawsuits nationwide.
With nearly a decade in proven trial experience, Marc is already representing several consumers who suffered severe injuries, including third-degree burns, after an electronic cigarette battery exploded. If you were hurt by a defective e cig, contact our lawyers today for a free legal consultation. There’s no charge, and no obligation, just the answers you need now.
Defective Electronic Cigarette Batteries
E cigs utilize a heated coil to turn liquid, usually a mixture of glycerine, nicotine and flavoring chemicals, into a gas that can be inhaled. In the vast majority of these products, lithium-ion batteries are used as a power source, and it’s these batteries that have been implicated in the recent spate of e cig explosions.
In 2014, the US Fire Administration reviewed media reports on 25 electronic cigarette explosions:
- 80% occurred while a vaporizer’s battery was being charged
- 10 resulted in injuries
- 22 started fires that spread beyond the e cigarette itself
For all 25 cases, government reviewers determined that a lithium-ion battery failure had caused the explosion. Even more troubling, the design of many electronic cigarettes, especially those known as “vape pens,” seems to be primed for further damage. During an explosion, the battery “can be propelled across the room like a bullet or small rocket,” the officials wrote.
But in many cases, there appears to be no user error prior to the device’s explosion. When a Utah mother’s electronic cigarette exploded in September of 2013, sending a burning metal coil rocketing into her son’s car seat, the investigating fire marshal determined that the accident had been caused by “a catastrophic failure of the device,” according to Salt Lake City’s Fox News affiliate. She had been using the factory charger, sold along with her device. One of our own clients, who intends to file suit against a battery manufacturer and the store where she bought her electronic cigarette, sustained severe burns when a battery suddenly exploded in her pocket.
Cig-A-Like Explodes In Factory Packaging
Similar problems have been reported in relation to non-rechargeable “cig-a-like” electronic cigarettes as well. These products, which closely resemble traditional cigarettes, also seem to have a history of exploding unexpectedly in users’ hands.
In 2012, Shona Bear Clark purchased a single e cig from Walmart, hoping the newly-released product would kick her smoking habit. When she brought the electronic cigarette home, it exploded in her face as she was removing it from the package. The specific e cig Clark purchased has been discontinued.
Few reports of such “spontaneous” explosions have surfaced; most of the recorded incidents have occurred while e cig batteries are charging, either plugged into a wall outlet or, using a USB charger, plugged into a laptop or car.
At bottom, a manufacturer’s duty to consumers is simple: produce safe products. When companies manufacture unsafe products, or fail to warn consumers of possible dangers, they can be held accountable. Far too often, these warnings seem to be absent. But the manufacturers of these defective e cig batteries may not be alone in liability.
Hoping to kickstart their use of the devices, many consumers have turned to retailers, both brick and mortar shops and online stores, looking for vaporizer starter kits. To begin vaping, you need several components, usually sold individually:
- atomizer (to heat eLiquid)
- tank (to hold eLiquid)
These systems, far more complex than the “cig-a-like” e cigs sold in gas stations and convenience stores across the country, are often called “mods” because their components can be modified by users. But in many cases, mods are being sold in pre-packaged kits, allowing new users to begin vaping without having to research the technology for themselves. It looks like some retailers aren’t designing these systems with the eye to caution and safety that consumers deserve.
Paired with an inappropriate charger, e cigarette batteries can become dangerously overcharged, leading to devastating explosions. While some retailers warn consumers to the possibility of device malfunction, others have been more reticent in advertising the dangers of their products.
E Cigarette Lawsuits Seek Compensation, Accountability
Victims have already won major victories against the manufacturers and retailers of defective e cigarettes.
In October 2015, Jennifer Ries was awarded nearly $2 million in compensation for the severe second-degree burns she sustained when her e-cig, plugged into a car charger, unexpectedly exploded in her lap, according to the Los Angeles Times.
After plugging the device in, Ries says a liquid, which smelled like nail polish, began leaking from the battery. Then, the battery exploded in flames, igniting her dress. Ries suffered severe injuries, both physical and psychological, ultimately filing suit against the electronic cigarette’s distributor, wholesaler and the California store where she bought it. In her lawsuit, Ries claimed all three businesses had been “involved in the distribution of a product that failed to conform to any kind of reasonable safety expectation – battery chargers should not explode – and failed to warn about known dangers.”
Crucially, Ries had been advised by a sales associate that her car’s cigarette lighter, which provides around 5 volts of electricity, was an appropriate place to charge her new e cig. That, however, wasn’t true. The device couldn’t handle more than 4.2 volts, although its manufacturer’s promotional materials also proposed using a car charger. It was a frank misrepresentation of facts, one to which the manufacturer eventually admitted, but not before Jennifer Ries suffered severe trauma.