E-cigarettes were introduced to the U.S. market in 2007 as a safer alternative to cigarettes and as a way to quit smoking. Since then, interest groups have questioned the safety of these devices and there has been a growing number of product liability lawsuits filed by consumers alleging that some e-cigarette devices and their lithium-ion batteries are defective. These lawsuits claim that e-cigarettes and/or their lithium-ion batteries exploded unexpectedly, causing severe burns and injuries.
Most e-cigarette explosion lawsuits are in their infancy and Plaintiffs have generally focused their actions against smaller retailers and online merchants rather than the manufacturers. This is because many of the products that are the subject of these lawsuits were manufactured in China. Plaintiffs are faced with naming everyone in the supply chain as Defendants because Chinese companies make it difficult to get them into U.S. courts.
So far these cases have had some early successes. A California jury recently awarded a woman $1.9 million in damages in a lawsuit filed against a retailer, distributor and wholesaler following an e-cigarette explosion that left the victim with severe burns. In that case, the Plaintiff’s lawyer used experts to show that the e-cigarette devices and their lithium-ion batteries lack appropriate safety controls to prevent combustion. The Defendants argued that the explosion was caused by user error.
Until recently, the e-cigarette industry has had virtually no oversight by government agencies. Previously, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulated cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco and smokeless tobacco, but in 2016, the FDA finalized a rule – Deeming Tobacco Products to Be Subject to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act – which extends the FDA’s authority to include the regulation of e-cigarettes. These regulations largely deal with looking at the ingredients, marketing, and product designs. At this point it is too soon to know whether these regulations will sufficiently address the potential hazards of e-cigarette devices and their lithium-ion batteries. Based on the number of reported e-cigarette explosions to date, we know that the e-cigarette industry has not done enough on its own to address those hazards.
Lawyers in our firm’s Toxic Torts Section are handling civil cases against the e-cigarette industry. If you would like more information about these cases, you can contact Will Sutton, a lawyer in the Section. Will can be reached at 800-898-2034 or by email at William.Sutton@beasleyallen.com.
Source: The Wall Street Journal
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