Since their introduction to the US market in 2007, electronic cigarettes have taken off in a major way. Thousands of consumers, both former smokers and non-smokers, have added vaporizing to their daily routines, raking in blockbuster profits for manufacturers big and small. Some government agencies, including Britain’s National Health Service, have even thrown their weight behind the devices, advocating for the use of e-cigs as a smoking cessation aid on a national level.
But in the United States, serious concerns remain about the safety of these products, not only the chemical contents of eLiquids but the devices used to vaporize. Electronic cigarettes use a heated “atomizer” to convert a liquid into gas for inhalation. It’s a new technology, and while the US Food & Drug Administration has recently gained the authority to review e-cigs for safety and quality, there’s still very little governmental oversight in the present. It’s tragic – but unsurprising – that consumers are being hurt.
Shocking E-Cig Explosions Leave Users Wounded
Across the country, users and bystanders have suffered severe injuries after an electronic cigarette unexpectedly exploded. At the root of these devastating incidents are defective lithium-ion batteries, which can overheat during charging or explode spontaneously.
At Lipsig, Shapey, Manus & Moverman, our experienced product liability attorneys have seen first-hand the devastating effects an e-cig explosion can have. Consumers have sustained third-degree burns, as well as debilitating chemical burns and puncture wounds in these accidents. Some victims have even lost fingers, to say nothing of users blinded by flying shrapnel.
But many of these injured consumers have decided to fight back, filing personal injury lawsuits against the manufacturers who have poured millions of cheaply-made lithium-ion batteries into the American economy. In a spate of recent lawsuits, e-cig users say they were harmed by defective batteries, and never warned of the product’s danger by retailers.
Our lawyers are paving the way for this developing litigation. Marc Freund, Esq., a Partner at Lipsig, Shapey, Manus & Moverman, has been selected to lead our electronic cigarette lawsuit team. He is currently representing multiple e-cig users who sustained third-degree burns and severe eye wounds after a vaporizer’s battery unexpectedly exploded. While our firm is based in New York, we have begun investigating new cases nationwide. If you were injured by an explosive e-cig, we want to hear from you. Our experienced attorneys offer free legal consultations, so you can learn more about your legal options at absolutely no cost.
Electronic Cigarettes Can Detonate In An Instant
Electronic cigarettes can be simple or complex, but no matter the price, the technology behind these devices remains the same. A battery, usually a type of lithium-ion battery, heats a small metal coil, or atomizer, which in turn heats a liquid solution until it becomes a vapor.
Simple Or Complex, Defective E-Cigs Explode
Cheap, single-use “cig-a-like” models are available in almost every convenience store across the country. These products don’t require any technical knowledge on the part of consumers. Just remove the device, which closely resembles a traditional cigarette, from its packaging and begin vaporizing immediately.
Unlike sophisticated vaporizers, cig-a-like e-cigs don’t require any assembly, and don’t allow for user customization. Perhaps more importantly, most of these rudimentary e-cigs are outfitted with a microprocessor, a little computer that cuts off the device’s power supply to prevent overheating. But even these assumedly “simple” devices have been known to explode at a moment’s notice.
In April 2012, an Oklahoma woman purchased her very first e-cig, a disposable cig-a-like manufactured by industry giant NJOY, in hopes that the new invention would help her quit smoking. But even before the device had been removed from its manufacturer’s packaging, the e-cig blew up in her face, knocking a painting off the wall across the room. Thankfully, she suffered only minor injuries, according to Tulsa’s Fox News affiliate.
The majority of explosions, however, appear to be caused by slightly more complicated electronic cigarettes, “vape pens,” which have a detachable tank to hold eLiquid. In fact, of the 25 explosions reviewed by officials from the US Fire Administration in 2014, every incident involved a vape pen. 80% of the explosions occurred while a device was charging, usually plugged into a laptop or desktop computer using a USB charger.
In every case, government officials concluded that the explosion had been caused by a lithium-ion battery. While some of these devices surely had built-in circuits to prevent overheating, the reviewers observed, an utter “absence of independent safety testing” leaves us no way to ensure that “these circuits will reliably perform their safety function.”
Of course, the explosion of an e-cigarette doesn’t just affect the device’s battery. In fact, officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency say that the design of most electronic cigarettes becomes similar to that of a gun in the event of an explosion. Vape pens especially seemed to be designed for further damage. In the event of a battery’s failure, the device’s cylindrical shape acts similar to a gun’s barrel, “firing” the defective battery across the room.
The most complex form of electronic cigarette is often referred to as a “mechanical mod.” While vapers using cig-a-like devices or vape pens are likely to have little knowledge of a battery’s technical specifications, mechanical mods are all about customization. Each individual component can be removed and replaced at will to alter the vaping experience.
Obviously, this sort of customization requires the utmost care, to ensure that specific batteries, chargers and atomizers can be used safely in combination. But it also poses a significant danger. Many vape shops have begun designing and assembling their own mechanical mods and advertising them as “starter kits” for new users, consumers who may have no understanding of the technology in their hands. It seems that some retailers aren’t designing these combinations with customer safety in mind.
Battery Companies, Vape Shops Responsible For Upholding Public Safety
In every state, product liability laws hold manufacturers and retailers to a simple set of duties, responsibilities essential to preserving public health. Manufacturers, including the companies who make lithium-ion batteries, are bound to produce reasonably safe products. That means batteries shouldn’t explode, at a moment’s notice, when they are used correctly. If a product has known, but reasonable, risks, manufacturers are required to warn consumers of those risks adequately.
In most cases, these duties transfer to every party along the chain of distribution, from manufacturers to wholesalers and retail establishments.
In our experience, it’s all too common for manufacturers to take short cuts, trading in consumer safety for wider profit margins and placing fundamentally flawed products directly into the hands of unsuspecting Americans.
Personal Injury Lawsuits Offer Hope
Until recently, the US federal government was entirely unable to regulate either the quality or safety of electronic cigarettes. State laws on the subject were a patchwork of contradictory requirements. In New York, minors couldn’t purchase e-cigs, but drive five minutes over the border into Connecticut and a 14-year-old could easily, and legally, pick one up and bring it back into New York. Now, that’s changing.
On May 5, 2016, the US Food & Drug Administration finalized new authority, allowing the agency to review all e-cigarette products, components and parts in stringent safety and quality evaluations. Beginning in August, manufacturers will be required to apply, for the first time, for FDA approval of their electronic cigarettes. Battery manufacturers, at least those whose products could be reasonably expected to accompany or be used in e-cigs, will also undergo safety reviews. That’s a major improvement for public health, but as with any major change, the review process won’t proceed at a breakneck pace.
In the meantime, injured consumers have few avenues for legal recourse, other than filing product liability lawsuits. More and more, vapers are choosing to pursue justice through the civil court system, and while most of their lawsuits have yet to reach trial, at least one major jury verdict has given injured consumers hope.
$2 Million E-Cig Explosion Victory In California
In 2013, Jennifer Ries sustained second-degree burns across her legs, buttocks and hand when her e-cig exploded as it was charging in the car, covering her body in searing chemicals.
But Ries didn’t take her injuries lying down. She filed what many legal observers believe was the first lawsuit spurred by an exploding electronic cigarette, suing the product’s manufacturer and distributor, along with the California store where she purchased the device. The e-cig, her lawsuit alleged, “failed to conform to any kind of reasonable safety expectation” and the three businesses had “failed to warn [her] about known dangers.”
In October 2015, a jury for the Riverside County Superior Court agreed, awarding Ries almost $1.9 million in damages.
Free Exploding E-Cig Lawsuit Consultations
At Lipsig, Shapey, Manus & Moverman, our attorneys want to help you during this trying time, not burden you with more worries that distract from your recovery. That’s why we always offer our legal services on a contingency-fee basis: you owe us nothing until we secure compensation in your case.
Your initial consultation comes at no charge. To learn more about the legal options open to you, call our experienced lawyers or fill out our contact form today.