A married couple from Illinois recently filed a lawsuit against two electronic cigarette specialty shops and a lithium-ion battery manufacturer alleging that batteries for an e-cigarette exploded in the husband’s pants, causing second- and third-degree burns. The negligence and product liability lawsuit alleges the batteries were defective and that no warnings were provided of the risk of explosion. The wife alleges that she lost her husband’s companionship following the incident. To date, the husband’s medical bills have topped $200,000.
Similar lawsuits have been filed by e-cigarette users across the country alleging spare lithium-ion batteries exploded while being stored in pockets. Many suits claim that the 18650 lithium-ion batteries were dangerous owing to the fact that they had no protective circuitry or internal temperature control, and that the manufacturers sold the batteries knowing that they had manufacturing defects and did not comply with safety standards. Many times, the battery cells used to power e-cigarettes are pulled from larger battery packs by Chinese distributors who break up the packs, repackage the cells, and sell them to American vape shops making it difficult to identify the original manufacturer.
The chemicals used in lithium-ion batteries are known to be extremely flammable. However, they can be safe if manufactured and processed correctly, and if the vaping device is designed properly. Unfortunately, however, manufacture, integration, and design is far from perfect. The batteries can short circuit or catch on fire as a result of “thermal runaway,” a chemical reaction that causes the battery to catch on fire. Both these accidents, in turn, can be caused by battery damage, too rapid recharge, extreme temperatures, the juxtaposition of other metal material, or using improper chargers.
In addition to the risk of explosion, electronic cigarettes may produce cancer-causing toxins that are unknowingly inhaled in the form of vapor. From a marketing perspective, e-cigs present a danger to public health since they are advertised to a younger group of consumers with seemingly innocuous flavors ranging from cotton candy to bubble-gum. The sweet odors produced by vaping have lured some children to drink the liquid and become poisoned. Additionally, inhalation, direct skin and/or eye exposure can cause acute nicotine toxicity.
If you would like more information about these cases, you can contact Will Sutton, a lawyer in the Section. He can be reached at 800-898-2034 or by email at William.Sutton@beasleyallen.com.
Source: Righting Injustice
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