Vape Pens Can Kill: The Dangers of Exploding E-Cigarettes
Vaping is promoted as a safer alternative to traditional tobacco cigarettes. For some, vaping is seen as a way to quit smoking, but in youth populations, e-cigarettes have been attracting teens who never would have smoked cigarettes. About 40% of teens who vape had reportedly never smoked a cigarette. As vaping has become a trend of its own, many researchers have started looking into the truth of vaping and are trying to determine whether it is beneficial as an alternative to tobacco products. As our knowledge of these products increases, new risks are surfacing, including the alarming possibility of e-cigarettes exploding and killing the person using them. Recently a man lost his life when his e-cigarette exploded, and part of the device became lodged in his brain. This gruesome occurrence is not the only known case of an e-cigarette exploding and causing injuries, and consumers are starting to take actions against the companies that profit from these dangerous devices. At Parker Waichman LLP, our exploding vape pen lawsuit attorneys feel that the manufacturers of vape pens should be held accountable when they sell products that injure and kill people.
What is an e-cigarette?
Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are devices that contain a cartridge that the user fills with a nicotine liquid. The battery-powered e-cigarette heats the liquid turning it into a vapor that is then inhaled. In this way, vaping mimics smoking. The device can be charged using a USB port. Vaping does not create smoke, and the liquid comes in a variety of flavors. As such, many people find vaping less offensive than cigarette smoking. When someone vapes, they are consuming nicotine, the addictive substance in cigarettes, at about the same level as if they were smoking.
The Risk of E-cigarette Explosions
When a Florida man was recently found dead in his burning home, investigators released a statement saying that the cause of the man’s death was a projectile wound in his head. According to officials, the victim, 38-year-old Tallmadge D’Elia, was using an e-cigarette when the device exploded, shooting part of the e-cigarette into his brain like a bullet.
The cause of the explosion was the lithium ion battery used in powering the device. Lithium batteries are used in many modern day electronic devices, including laptops, smartphones, and Teslas. On rare occasions, a part of these batteries can get too hot and cause a type of chain reaction known as “thermal runaway.” Some batteries contain safety features that can reduce the risk of this occurring, while other products do not.
Lithium-ion batteries were the cause of the Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphones that were recalled in 2016 due to a risk of fire. They were also to blame for the massive recall of hoverboards. When a Tesla Model X crashed into a wall earlier this year and caught fire, the battery was believed to be the reason the fire was so difficult to extinguish. It is believed that the battery, while no more likely to catch fire than other batteries, created a fire that was hotter, and released fumes that made it more difficult for firefighters to put out.
In the case of D’Elia’s exploding e-cigarette, the problem could have been the result of the battery overcharging and then experiencing a short. The device D’Elia was using was one of the larger units, which in turn had a more powerful battery.
Not an Isolated Case
The e-cigarette explosion that killed D’Elia was not the only documented explosion of an e-cigarette. Between 2009 and 2016, the United States Fire Administration has received reports of 195 fires and explosions caused by e-cigarettes. While D’Elia was the first person reportedly killed by one of these devices, there have been many other injuries, including a teen who was injured on the Harry Potter ride in Universal Studios in Orlando when an e-cigarette in someone else’s pocket exploded, a man who sustained third-degree burns after his vaping device exploded in his pocket, and another man who suffered burns to his lungs, face, chest and hands when his e-cigarette blew up in his face.
June 24, 2019 – A 17-year-old suffered serious injuries to his mouth and face after the “vape pen” he was using allegedly exploded in his mouth. Like many others, Austin Adams had turned to electronic cigarettes (also known as “e-cigs” or “vape pens”) to help him break his tobacco addiction and quit smoking. However, the lithium-ion battery in the device allegedly exploded during use, inflicting blast and burn injuries to the teen’s mouth and causing Mr. Adams to lose several teeth as well as part of his gums.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently collecting additional information about other “vape pen” explosion incidents; however, Mr. Adams’ experience serves to highlight the dangers that vape pens and e-cigs pose to consumers who may view the devices as a “safe” alternative to smoking.
The vape pen that injured Mr. Adams used a lithium-ion battery, a common power source that is used to power everything from vape pens, e-cigs, and cellular telephones to some of the systems on jumbo jets. They are popular because of the amount of power they can produce compared to their relatively small size. The safe operation of these batteries depends in part on a thin separator that is meant to keep the positively-charged cathode and the negatively-charged anode separate. If this separator fails, a short-circuit can result, causing the battery to reach temperatures of 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit or more. At this temperature, the liquid electrolyte in the battery that allows the electrical charge to travel between the cathode and the anode can ignite.
Reducing the Risk of Exploding Vape Pens
According to the FDA, consumers should replace batteries that have gotten wet or damaged. It is also essential to use the charger that was sold with the device and be sure that the charger has an automatic shut off to prevent the battery from overcharging. The battery should not be carried in a pocket with loose change and keys, because this too can cause a short.
The FDA has recommended that users of vape pens take the following steps to reduce the risk of their vape pen exploding unexpectedly:
- Do not use a phone charger or tablet charger to charge a vape pen;
- Replace wet or damaged batteries;
- Do not leave a vape pen charging overnight or under a pillow, on a couch, or anywhere else where the device may overheat;
- Keep spare or loose lithium-ion batteries in a separate case, away from other metal objects;
- Do not expose a vape pen or batteries to extreme heat or cold;
- Do not mix old and new batteries or use batteries from different brands; and
- Look for vape pens that have features such as firing button locks, vent holes, and/or a feature to prevent overcharging.
What is Being Done to Protect the Public?
While the FDA has begun collecting information about vape pen explosions and has recommended that manufacturers of vape pens, e-cigs, and other tobacco products provide additional information to consumers about the types of batteries they are using and the risks and dangers of these batteries. So far, though, the FDA has not issued any recalls or other warnings concerning lithium-ion batteries or their propensity to explode.
Injuries from Defective Products Create Liability
When a person suffers an injury due to a defective product, the manufacturer or seller of that product can be held liable. This means that the injured individual can be compensated for the harm caused to them. Products can be defective by design, because of an error in manufacturing, or because the company selling the device did not provide adequate warnings or instructions to consumers about the product’s risks.
Legal Rights for Those Hurt in Vape Pen Explosions
Vape pen explosions may be caused by a defect in the lithium-ion battery used in these devices, which means that those who have been injured in vape pen explosion incidents may be entitled to file a lawsuit against the vape pen manufacturer, the manufacturer of the lithium-ion battery, or both, and recover compensation from these companies. This compensation can help victims address the expenses associated with:
- Emergency medical room treatment and follow-up care;
- Reconstructive surgeries;
- Time missed from work and any loss of income from not being able to return to one’s former job or position;
- Emotional and mental distress that stems from having disfiguring injuries, experiencing physical pain, and being limited in one’s ability to participate in typical and customary family and social activities;
- Other expenses that can stem from such incidents.
are Being Filed
Across the country, people who have been injured by dangerous exploding batteries are starting to file lawsuits against the manufacturers. While many products use lithium-ion batteries, most products are not being used in a person’s face, creating the incredible risk that e-cigarettes present to consumers.
Based on predictions, the e-cigarette market is likely to be worth a massive $32 Billion by 2021. The companies profiting from this technology should be held accountable for the injuries their products are causing.
Parker Waichman LLP’s attorneys have decades of experience trying complex product liability cases. We take pride in our work as advocates for individuals who have been harmed by defective and dangerous products. We have recovered more than $2 billion in settlements and verdicts for our personal injury clients.
If you have suffered injuries from an e-cigarette, contact us today at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529) for a free consultation with one of our experienced exploding e-cigarette injury lawsuit attorneys.
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