Craig Rosenbaum | November 13, 2019 | Products Liability
Compact electronic smoking devices, widely known as e-cigs or vapes, have been linked with property damage and personal injury after malfunctions have caused them to catch fire or explode. Vape pen devices malfunctioning have been the root of hundreds of injuries ranging from second and third degree burns to fatal explosions. These explosions have happened as a result of manufacturers using poorly sourced lithium ion batteries.
Why are Vapes Used?
Vapes are handheld battery-powered devices designed to recreate the feeling of smoking. The vapor is created by heating a liquid made of nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerin and flavorings. Once the device has heated the liquid forms a vapor aerosol. Most e-cigarettes and vapes are powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that can overheat, causing burns, fire, and explosions. These devices have become popular with people who are turning to them as an alternative to traditional cigarettes. Manufacturers have marked them as “safer” than traditional tried tobacco.
Injuries in the News
In May 2018, a 38-years-old man was found dead in his St. Petersburg home due to a vape pen explosion. In January of 2019 a 24-year-old man in Texas died of a massive stroke after his vape pen exploded and tore his carotid artery. This fatal explosion occurred in the parking lot of a store that sells smoking and vaping supplies.
In New York City a 31-year-old man was badly burned after a vape pen unexpectedly exploded in his pocket. Video shows sparks shooting in his pocket as a smoke cloud balloons around him. He suffered second and third degree burns to his legs, thighs and hand and underwent emergency surgery. This incident was the result of the lithium ion battery coming into contact with other loose metal inside of the man’s pocket.
Lithium Ion Batteries and Resulting Lawsuits
The lithium ion batteries associated with vape pens have been under the most scrutiny for causing these explosions. Many explosions appear to be the result of overcharging the device or when a poorly-designed loose battery come sin contact with metal. However, a battery of proper quality should not combust in these circumstances. Safety studies have been conducted documenting the way to properly design and manufacture lithium ion batteries. Manufacturers and retailers know that poor-quality and failure prone batteries will cause explosions and injuries to consumers.
Most lawsuits filed against manufacturers of vape pens are based on defects in warnings, design defects or manufacturing defects. These claims allege that either the manufacturers did not properly warn the consumers of the risks associated with the pen, the design on the vape pen will result in the consumer experiencing an unreasonable risk, or the manufacturer produced the vape pen in such a way that even a well-designed pen can cause serious harm.
The explosions and injuries have led to stronger regulations against the sale of vape pens and e-cigarettes. The FDA has encouraged manufacturers to make modifications to address the battery safety so such incidents can be avoided in the future.