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.

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