It’s an injury that can literally happen in the blink of an eye. One minute you’re enjoying a puff off of an e-cigarette, and the next, you’re experiencing the searing pain of a point-blank explosion to the face. It’s a scenario that’s happening with more frequency as people choose from a growing array of electronic devices over traditional cigarettes. Electronic cigarette explosions can result in serious injuries, often to the mouth, face, eyes, hands and legs. In some cases, multiple surgeries are required to repair the damage done.
This article was written to discuss in a general way, the types of malfunctions and injuries that can occur with electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarette use, as well as the types of compensation an injured person can recover. If you were injured while using an e-cigarette device, it could well be worth your time and effort to discuss your case with an experienced personal injury attorney.
Vaping Devices, the Basics
An e-cigarette is a battery-operated device designed to emulate the experience of smoking a traditional tobacco cigarette. The use of e-cigarettes is often referred to as vaping due to the fact that liquid contained in the device is heated to a vapor, then inhaled.
Though e-cigarettes can come in a variety of configurations and sizes, they are generally manufactured with a small tank containing a liquid mixture of nicotine, propylene glycol, and flavorings. The tank is connected to a mouth piece on one end and a heating element on the other. The heating element is powered by a lithium-ion battery. The user will inhale through the mouthpiece, and press a button to power the heating element (or this will be done automatically), and the liquid in the tank will be converted to heated vapor, which is drawn into the lungs.
While the actual occurrence of catastrophic e-cigarette malfunction is rare, serious problems can occur when issues related to the lithium-ion batteries arise. Batteries, like bombs or bullets, store energy. When they malfunction, energy can be released in unpredictable ways.
These batteries, which are contained in a number of other daily-use devices (children’s toys, laptop computers, certain cars), are known to explode under certain circumstances. What makes the situation particularly dangerous for vapers is that the devices are often carried in a pocket, or placed directly in the user’s mouth.
There are a number of reasons why lithium ion batteries might explode ranging from defective e-cigarette components, to poor battery manufacturing processes. Additionally, a component of many batteries, known as an electrolyte, is flammable. If the heat generated by a burning electrolyte can’t vent, an explosion can occur.
The situation becomes more complicated when a vaper who’s purchased a sound e-cigarette unit from a reputable retailer, then buys additional batteries from an online retailer such as eBay. There’s a possibility that the buyer could acquire a battery whose circuitry protection isn’t compatible with the device. This could lead to malfunction.
Injuries From E-Cigarette Explosions are on the Rise
According to research conducted by the U.S. Fire Administration, electronic cigarette fires and explosions have risen significantly in recent years. In 2015 there were 21 moderate injuries reported. By 2016, that number had increased to 52. Meanwhile, in 2015 14 serious injuries were reported, a number that increased to 20 by the following year. According to the (USFA), this rise appears to correlate with an increase in electronic cigarette sales.
Types of Injuries
A person who is injured while using an electronic cigarette might experience any of the following injuries:
- Severe burns (hands, legs, groin and face)
- Broken fingers
- Broken teeth
- Other injuries
Vaping Accidents and Lawsuits in the News
On November 20,2015, the Los Angeles Times published a story about multiple lawsuits being filed on behalf of the victims of e-cigarette explosions. In one case, a Bakersfield man named Vicente Garza was using his e-cigarette before going to bed. He reportedly pressed the button on the e-cigarette allowing for inhalation of the vapor, and the device exploded near his face. He sustained injuries to his mouth, face as well as his left hand, which was holding the device. Surgery was performed on his burned tongue, and doctors made the decision to amputate his left index finger. His attorney filed a product liability suit against the device manufacturer, Flawless Vapes & Supplies, as well as the store where Garza purchased the device.
Garza’s attorney also filed suit in Orange County on behalf of Los Angeles Galaxy soccer player Daniel Califf. In that case, Califf alleged that he had placed the e-cigarette to his ear in order to hear whether or not the device was working. It then exploded, ripping a large hole in his cheek.
The court affidavit stated that Califf also suffered a concussion as a result of the explosion, and has since experienced daily headaches and is unable to continue work as a soccer coach.
What Can a Person Recover In an e-Cigarette Lawsuit?
While it’s impossible to predict the outcome of any legal action, victims of e-cigarette malfunctions could potentially be entitled to the following compensations:
- Pain and Suffering Damages
- Lost Wages (unable to work)
- Attorney’s Fees
- Punitive Damages
After suffering second-degree burns on her legs, buttocks and hand as the result of an e-cigarette battery explosion in 2013, a Riverside County jury awarded Jennifer Reis $1.9 million. Reis sued the e-cigarette company’s distributor, its wholesaler, as well as the store where the device was purchased.
It’s important to keep in mind that every case is different, and not every e-cigarette accident will result in a large monetary award. However, as the previous case highlights, it could be worth the time and effort for a person injured while vaping to discuss their options with a personal injury attorney.
Injured by E-Cigarettes? Contact an Attorney
If you experienced any of the injuries described in this article, or were injured in some other way by an e-cigarette device, you owe it to yourself to discuss your situation with a personal injury attorney. Remember, the clock starts ticking once the injury happens, and there is only a limited amount of time in which to file a lawsuit. In these types of injury cases, the California Code of Civil Procedures typically allows two years from the date of injury. However, to be certain, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case.
If you have questions about anything discussed in this article, or any other personal injury related topic, contact our office to see how we can help.