Exploding E-Cigarette Batteries: Legal Situation and What to Do

In 2015, a man from Texas sued a vaping device retailer for $1 million after its battery exploded in his pocket, causing burn injuries to his scrotum and thighs. This is not an isolated incident and is not the only lawsuit being filed against vaping battery manufacturers. Nor is it limited to the United States with similar incidents happening across both Canada and the UK, as well as in other countries.

 Lawsuits Based on Defective Products

For David Powell, the cause of his injuries were a pair of lithium batteries bought as part of a purchase from Vixen Vapors a few days previously. The explosion, he was only wearing cargo shorts at the time, sent shrapnel laced scathing hot liquid into his groin area causing damage and second degree burns. Speaking to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram last year, his lawyer stated that Powell, an ex-Marine, felt like “sparks were shooting from his crotch.” He ended up spending 4 days in a specialist burns unit as a result.

 John Ross, Powell’s lawyer based his case on “unreasonably dangerous” products made in China for Vixen Vapors which “failed to conform to the applicable design standards and specifications.” In their counter argument, the company stated that it tried to educate all customers on “proper use and storage.”

Damage and Your Rights

Between 2009 and 2014, there were 25 incidents involving e-cigarette batteries, which were reported in the media. Many more have gone unreported. Not all led to burns as suffered by Mr. Powell, but other incidents have led to the damage and destruction of property. Overs have suffered more damage such as a 15 year old boy who lost half a dozen front teeth, while other teens have had severe burns after vaping pens caught fire.

It’s expected that the 2009-14 figure of 25 is woefully below the real total. Furthermore, e-cigarettes have increased in popularity over the last two years. With the use of lithium-ion batteries, which overheat when the cigarette is charging, there is little surprise that accidents are happening. The resultant damage to person and property has given legal firms a good basis to represent clients in lawsuits for damage against the person and other property.

Currently, the U.S. legal system is focusing on the FDA’s research into the health consequences of using e-cigarette devices as  a means of smoking. This means new regulations will relate to the carcinogens and toxins inhaled with each puff of smoke, nicotine quantities and so on. Federal regulators are not looking to set rules for batteries. However, legal avenues exist along the lines of damage to the person and goods as mentioned above, fair expectations of a safe product, quality, and related topics.

If your e-cigarette battery does explode, you should:

1. Retain all evidence including receipts, packaging, the batteries themselves, warranties and receipts for any other property damaged by the explosion, and other related paperwork.

2. Get names and contact information for any witness

3. Photograph the injuries, get paperwork and documentation from your hospital and health insurer.

4. Ascertain whether there were any CCTV or surveillance in the area where the incident took place.

5. Talk to a public liability attorney.

How to Avoid the Problem in the First Place

Of course, nobody wants to be stuck in this kind of situation in the first place. That’s why it is important to follow some simple, basic steps to protect yourself as an individual when using e-cigarettes. To achieve vaping battery safety, you should ensure your batteries are wrapped correctly and the wrap is not torn, and not doing anything which might destabilize your batteries like leaving them loose in a pocket, not storing them in a case, not leaving them in a hot car, or in direct sunlight at all, and do not leave them unattended when charging.

Ethic Rules Gone Wrong: Good Deeds Getting Punished in Minnesota

A Colorado licensed lawyer is facing the prospect of losing his bar license for the unlicensed practice of law in Minnesota. Only, he’s not practised law in the state at all or even visited his so-called clients within the state. Instead, he seems to have fallen victim to an overzealous state judiciary and an opposition lawyer with a late, late finding of a moral compass.

Let’s rewind and see what happened. The unnamed Colorado lawyer’s in-laws lived in Minnesota and had a problem with debt collection. With 30 years of practicing law in Colorado under his belt, the lawyer agreed to help them by emailing opposing counsel to try to resolve the dispute.

At first, the opposing counsel tried to get assurances that the Colorado lawyer was licensed to practice in Minnesota, which he was not. However, the lawyer said he’d retain local counsel should the dispute come to court. Over a 6 month period, they exchanged a dozen emails before the opposing counsel notified the lawyer that he’d be filing an ethics complaint. No action has been taken against the counsel for taking so long to file the complaint, but it can only be assumed he was losing the argument or needed time to find enough precedent to file the complaint.

This has led to a dispute between the Colorado Lawyer and various reviews and courts within Minnesota as to what constitutes practising law in the state. For the record, the Colorado lawyer never left the state to practice law, only conducted emails, and did not step foot in any court as part of the debt collection dispute.

However, as far as the Minnesota Supreme Court is concerned, he violated legal ethics and practised law in Minnesota just by emailing someone regarding a legal matter within the state. This flimsy finding was backed up by Birbower v. Superior Court whereby a New York lawyer was found guilty of practising law in California despite not living there. However, the difference is that Birbower visited California several times to meet interested parties in his case, unlike the Colorado lawyer who remained in his own state.

The Minnesota legal system has now set a dangerous precedent whereby relatives of interested parties who happen to be lawyers licensed in other states cannot consult or attempt email arbitration with opposition lawyers for fear of being disbarred.


The Legalities and Finances of Office Lighting

The rules and regulations surrounding light bulb usage are changing. These changes, like so many others, are not uniform around the world, but unique to each country or region. There are active legislative processes in Canada and the European Union to ban certain types of bulbs, while in the US there is a slow moving process to make bulbs more energy efficient. All the while, the LED light, the most efficient of all, is marching ahead of legislators. Here is a quick overview, for the business owner, where legislation currently stands.

The United States

Legislation to deal with lighting regulations and changes in light bulb laws have varied from state to state and have included federal decisions on the subject. Initially efforts came from California, Connecticut and New Jersey to limit or phase out incandescent light bulbs. Federal efforts date back to 2007 with a plan to make incandescent light bulbs more energy efficient by setting maximum wattage limits. Federal legislation is aiming to limit light bulbs to 45W, which is similar to the average CFL bulb by 2020. No legislation has been passed yet which would make incandescent bulbs illegal.


The process to change light bulb usage in Canada began in 2007. This ran on a provincial level, first with Nova Scotia and then Ontario. Later that year the federal government moved to ban all incandescent light bulbs by 2012. The spur was greater energy efficiency and environmental impact. In 2011, the changeover was delayed until 2014, but there would be a ban on importing inefficient incandescent lighting and using either 75W or 100W bulbs. In 2015, the ban was extended to 40W and 60W bulbs.

UK and European Union

The phasing out of incandescent bulbs began in 2007 with the aim, across the EU of banning sales of the bulbs by 2012. The one loophole included in legislation was that they could be sold for industrial usage from specialist stores, which were accessible to the normal, commercial or residential customer too. Since then the European Union has set a new target of 2018 to phase out halogen bulbs. This would leave CFL bulbs as the preferred option across the EU, which has drawn much criticism from groups who dislike the bulbs, find them dim or too harsh.

Problems with the CFL Bulbs

CFL bulbs are smaller versions of the strip lighting found in most shops and offices. According to studies published by the National Association for Adults with Special Learning Needs (NAASLN), strip lighting and CFL bulbs have been linked to the triggering of ADD/HD, dyslexia and poor achievement. Other studies have looked into concentration and productivity levels in offices while Dr. Miriam Rafailovich, speaking to Men’s Health, has found that if fluorescent bulbs are kept close to the person, they emit UV radiation levels far in excess of human tolerance – releasing in 45 seconds the maximum a human should be exposed to in 8 hours.

The Energy Efficient LED Bulb Solution

As countries legislate away from incandescent bulbs toward CFLs, the free market and technology is moving far in advance. LED bulbs are not new, but have until recently been limited to torches and flashlights. While people could purchase LED bulbs for their homes, the initial purchase price was thought to be too high to tempt many into making that change. However, now that production and sale costs have been reduced, there are LED price calculation applications available to make a reasonable comparison.

These are not limited to residential properties however. Price comparisons can be made for commercial properties too and soon industrial ones – the one sector where incandescent bulbs can often still be used. It appears, with LEDs being up to ten times more energy efficient than traditional bulbs including both Halogen and CFL bulbs, that a switch in market will be happening in advance of further legislation.

If this is the case, then investing in LED bulb retrofitting whether in the US, Canada or indeed the UK, seems the way forward for businesses. Legislation will eventually catch up with the bulbs, and if initial evidence seems likely LEDs will not only save money on utility costs, but may provide a more productive working environment for staff as well.


An American Made Double Standard on Labor Rights

The overwhelming majority of Americans buy products made in sweatshops or countries with poor or next to no worker’s rights or health and safety. This is not a conscious choice in most cases, and in many, there is no choice at all. Electrical products are made or put together in China, food comes from Mexico, clothes from India or Southeast Asia. Even when products come from American companies, they’re not necessarily made in America. So, should American companies be allowed to ignore American laws and rights when manufacturing in another country?

Different Rules

Every nation has the right to set its own rules when it comes to labor, health and safety, and environmental standards. The world has not come close to enforcing universal standards on all nations to ensure workers are respected, well renumerated or protected from toxic substances. Many developing countries such as China and Japan have looked the other way or purposefully enacted weak labor protection laws in order to drive down the cost of their products and bring manufacturing work to their country.

American Products vs. Made in America

You might feel that you can find safety in American products – those made by American companies with our flag. However, many products are made cheaply overseas by companies, are bought and rebranded by American companies before being sold here at a normal price. Many other American products are just simply made overseas to save money on labor costs. The costs to the environment and for transportation being smaller in the mind of the company than labor in the US. Made in America products are genuinely made in this country and under the laws/regulations and ethical/moral standards of this country.

The Only Ethical Solution

The only solution, baring congress forcing companies to adhere to US law overseas as a minimum standard (in Europe for example, labor laws are often stronger than here), is to buy made in America products. This not only means that the workers manufacturing your products are well looked after and paid, but also that the quality of the product you are using is known and approved. As Liberty Tabletop say, “we often worry about the quality of the food we are putting into our mouths, but how often do we stop to think about the tool we are using.” The same thought could go to the electronics we use, the clothing we wear, the furniture we sit on and the automobiles we drive. Companies like Intel, Crayola, Pyrex, KitchenAid, Liberty and Wilson Footballs are all made in America brands.


Study Shows Half of US Law Firms Failing to Maximize Online Sales

A study by UK based, international marketing agency Palladous, showed that half of East Coast Law firms had neglected basic strategies, such as completing their online profiles, and were missing out on sales and business as a result. In Greenwich Village a shocking 4.4% had completed all the essential steps to maximize their online presence.

With 85% of local customers finding businesses in their area using the internet according to a survey published on the Yelp blog, dating back to 2012, and more recent estimates putting the figure at closer to 90%, there’s no doubt that the slice of the market available to those businesses pursuing offline only strategies is shrinking. Some recent estimates put the 2015 figure at closer to 90%.

Despite this, many law firms, retain traditional marketing strategies that become more expensive and less effective over time – consumers drive past billboards while their passenger scrolls through Facebook, they grab their tablet device when the TV commercials run, or fast forward past them entirely with TiVo.

The study by Palladous revealed that just over half of law firms hadn’t even undertaken the basic steps to complete their online presence and get the best results. The worst performing region was Greenwich Village where just 4.4% had taken the time to complete their Yelp profile, and even the best performing region – Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, saw a full third of firms without complete profiles.

Steve Brownlie, Consulting Director at Palladous, had this to say: “Ask a litigation lawyer what they would use a magic wand for, and the common answer is – get me more clients – but many fail to actually do the basics right online, enabling those clients to find them.”

Completing online profiles on these online sites can lead to outsized returns on time and money invested for law firms as many of the platforms offer free registration for a standard page. The most popular are the Google Local listing driven by their Google My Business product, and Yelp, but business owners should also claim and fix as many of their listings as possible.

Use of video, compelling text and photos wherever possible is another way to increase the lead generating power of these sites. They give the opportunity to have another presence on the web showcasing the law firm, partners and location.

Once the profiles are set up, reviews become one of the key factors in determining how successful an individual law firm’s presence will be. There are a number of products to help law firms become more organised with achieving reviews such as Get Five Stars. This allows business owners to navigate happy customers to the main listings sites to leave feedback, but capture negative feedback for the immediate attention of the owners. This allows firms to build a positive public image, and rebuild relationships with unhappy customers – combining to deliver stronger growth, as well as better customer retention.

Reviews have been shown to influence buying decisions of up to 90% of online searchers. Law firms without complete profiles on sites such as Yelp, and Google My Business, are less likely to secure these valuable reviews, and therefore less likely to secure future business from those sources.

Successful law firms should not, naturally, look to scale back on their already successful marketing activities, whether they are on or offline, but they should constantly evaluate where their money and time is being invested to ensure they take advantage of newer opportunities. When the barriers to entry are so low on most of these platforms, and the powerful impact they’re shown to have on nine out of ten consumers, it makes sense to take the online marketing of a law practice seriously.

Could Paul’s Marijuana Bill Redefine Federal-State Relationships?

Today three senators are planning to introduce a Senate Bill that could have a major effect on the Federal-State relationship. The bill seems innocuous enough at first glance, Rand Paul along with Corey Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand want to prevent Federal officers from prosecuting marijuana users in states where it has been legalized.

This bill could have more importance, legally, beyond the realm of either medical or recreational marijuana use because it reasserts the right of state law to trump federal law in the United States. Many laws in the Anglo-American world are set on precedent, once it happens once – such as with this law – others may follow. In short, this brings back to the fore the 10th Amendment, which is rarely invoked against federal law, but reads:

‘The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.’

The Current Situation

Currently, 23 states have passed laws by popular mandate – as voted by its citizens during an election/referendum – to legalize medical marijuana. Two further states have legalized recreational marijuana use. However, due to international treaties and laws on drug use, federal law still makes the use of and selling of marijuana illegal.

The consequence is two-fold. Firstly, people who smoke pot for medical reasons in the 23 states and those who use it recreationally in the two states are at risk of prosecution by federal agents if they do what state law allows. Thus far, prosecuting such people has not been on the federal agent agenda. Secondly, it makes it impossible for people who sell medicinal pot or recreational pot, where legal, to do so through bank accounts. The filing of federal taxes may also be difficult to say the least.

Potential Roadblocks

The bill’s passage is not guaranteed and it may be amended prior to passing through the Senate and being sign by the President. With that in mind it is impossible to guess how the law will work and how it will affect the state-federal relationship. If passed, it would give states primacy over an element of law – what drugs can and cannot be used or how they can be used. It suggests that such a change could lead to others.

There is a strong undercurrent in the Republican party to do the opposite of Rand Paul’s proposed bill. That would mean using federal law to go after marijuana users and sellers where it has been allowed under state law. That would be the opposite of a libertarian state arrangement, but consistent with centralized federal law. It would also need bipartisan help from the Democrats to get through. It is possible, therefore, that the bill is a gambit by Ron Paul to put his name out there to get the libertarian vote in the upcoming race to be nominated as a presidential candidate. However, if it is genuine, it could be an interesting rediscovery of the 10th amendment and a step back from federal control.

How to Emigrate to Canada safely and legally

Canada is a popular emigration destination for Americans and this is mainly because of the short distance and cultural differences. Canada is a reasonably laid-back country with stunning scenery and an abundance of wildlife, making it somewhat idyllic for those wanting to escape a busy life in the US. However, emigrating to another country isn’t a decision which should be taken lightly and just because they’re next door, doesn’t mean you can simply hop over the border and start living there. Financial and legal aspects of emigrating both need to be taken into account.

Legal requirements

Visa – If you’re visiting Canada for over 180 days, you need a visa. American citizens can usually obtain a visa under the ‘economic stream of immigration’, which means that if you have a particular skill, such as an engineer, you shouldn’t have any problem. However, if you’re emigrating from another country, such as the UK, a decision may take a lot longer. Other aspects of your life taken into account when you apply for a Canadian visa are your age, level of education, income, health, whether your family is coming with you and whether you have a job already waiting for you. These regulations are in place to ensure Canada only allows the most desirable candidates to live in their country.

Taking care of your finances

Banking – Although it’s sensible to open a Canadian bank account before you move in order for all your funds to be transferred in time, it is possible to bank across the border from Canada, which can make the transition slightly easier. Ask your bank what the best option is and whether they have counterparts in Canada.

Healthcare and taxes – Health insurance is paid for via your taxes, similar to the NHS in the UK and therefore, you’ll no longer need to pay for your separate health insurance in the US. Make sure you cut this off as soon as possible, pay any cancellation charges promptly and apply for public health insurance in Canada as soon as you can.

Tax rates in Canada are not too dissimilar to those in the US. The amount you pay depends on where you live and how much you earn. The US, however, allows for you and your spouse to join your incomes for a joint return, where Canada doesn’t. The US also allows additional deductions.


How to Decide if You’re Ready to Declare Bankruptcy

By Doug Hoyes, Founder and Trustee, Hoyes, Michalos & Associates

You have debts, so you are considering the obvious permanent legal solution: Declaring bankruptcy or filing a consumer proposal. All of your debts will be eliminated, and you can get on with your life. But is it really that simple?

The decision to take the formal legal step of filing personal bankruptcy or a consumer proposal should not be made lightly. There are some benefits, but there are also costs to be considered.

Benefits of Formal Insolvency

The benefits of formal insolvency are obvious. Most of your unsecured debts are eliminated, including credit cards, bank loans, and even taxes owed to the Canada Revenue Agency. The phone calls and collection actions stop, and you have peace of mind.

Once you are out of debt, you can begin to rebuild your finances. Your monthly cash flow improves, since you no longer owe debt payments, making it easier to make ends meet and even begin to save.

Costs of Bankruptcy

There are of course costs to be considered as well. Bankruptcy isn’t free. You will generally be required to make a monthly payment to your bankruptcy trustee (based on your income), and you risk losing certain assets. There will be a note placed on your credit report for a minimum of six years after your bankruptcy is completed, so in addition to the out-of-pocket costs of bankruptcy, your ability to borrow in the future may be severely impacted for a period of time.

You can borrow after bankruptcy, but only after you have taken steps to rebuild your credit, and only generally if you have a sufficient income and a down payment or security deposit.

Weigh the Pros and Cons

So what should you do? Is it better to simply deal with the debt on your own and avoid bankruptcy? Avoiding bankruptcy is generally the preferred option, but whether or not you need to file for bankruptcy depends on your specific circumstances.

If you have a significant amount of debt, it may be mathematically impossible to ever repay it on your own. If your net pay is $2,000 per month and you have $50,000 in unsecured debt, it would take over two years to repay your debt in full if you had no living expenses and the loans were interest free! That’s unrealistic for most people.

If you have assets that can be liquidated to pay the debt, you can sell your assets or refinance your home in order to avoid bankruptcy. If, however, you have limited or no assets, bankruptcy becomes the more plausible option.

If you are threatened with legal action such as a wage garnishment, a legal solution such as bankruptcy may be necessary. In fact, a significant number of the personal bankruptcies I have filed over my career were initiated by the debtor’s realization that if they did nothing they would end up with a wage garnishment. For many people, that’s the deciding factor: If your debt has become a legal problem, a legal solution is required. A wage garnishment will not stop until it’s paid in full unless you get legal creditor protection in the form of a bankruptcy or consumer proposal.

So how do you decide if you can deal with your debts on your own, or if formal insolvency is required? If it will take you many years to repay your non-mortgage debts on your own, or if you are threatened with legal action, a bankruptcy or consumer proposal should be considered. In Canada, a bankruptcy or consumer proposal can only be filed through a licensed bankruptcy trustee. You don’t have to make the decision on your own – consult a trustee to talk about all of your options.

Justice Brownstone Featured in World Pride Video

We are proud to say that Justice Harvey Brownstone is prominently featured in the globally disseminated promotional video for WORLD PRIDE which will be occurring in Toronto June 21 – 29, 2014. He will also be giving a keynote presentation with triumphant United States Supreme Court litigant Edith Windsor at the International Human Rights Conference on Wednesday June 25, 2014. Details at www.worldpridetoronto.com. You can see the video here:

5 Big Challenges Divorced Moms Face

Because divorce is never really part of the plan, many recent divorcees have some very real struggles to cope with. As they grapple with life’s new complications, divorced Moms face several main challenges during their lives after marriage.  Taking a moment to look at the main problems which divorced mothers are experiencing today, we see true resilience and brave women finding solutions. Divorced moms facing these 5 major issues are sharing their tips with the community and are overcoming the sometimes adverse affects of divorce.