A Naples man has filed a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of an electronic cigarette (or e-cigarette), which he said he was using normally when it literally exploded in his face. His eyebrows were burned off and flames were sent shooting into his mouth, quickly burning his throat and lungs, he says.
Emergency medical responders had to heavily sedate the 21-year-old so they could keep him breathing, as the burns on his esophagus and lungs were such that there was a serious risk of his airway being closed. As his air passages swelled, his life was in danger. The only reason he didn’t die, according to a lawsuit detailed in the Daily Business Review, is that he was intubated, meaning a machine was breathing for him.
According to the filing, the culprit in the explosion was a lithium battery. Defendant is a California company that is accused of using this volatile component without accounting for its incendiary properties or warning consumers of the potential danger it posed.
In fact, there are a number of e-cigarette makers that do take into account the fact that lithium batteries have a tendency to overheat. Their solution has been to create a structural weakness on the part of the device that faces away from the consumer. That way, any explosive pressure would more likely blow out away from the user’s face.
E-cigarettes have gained popularity in recent years, with many viewing them as a better alternative to tobacco cigarettes, which are known to cause lung cancer and a myriad of other health woes. The devices function with battery-powered vaporizers. Users can refill cartridges of liquid that contain nicotine and flavoring that can replicate the use of a tobacco cigarette. Revenue for e-cigarette sales surpassed $1 billion by 2013. There have been more than a dozen instances nationally of these products exploding on customers and causing serious harm and personal injury.
This isn’t the first time e-cigarette companies have come under fire for this issue. In California, one plaintiff was awarded nearly $2 million after she was injured when the device exploded in her vehicle while it was charging. Most of the pending defective product lawsuits against these companies stem from explosions that occurred while the devices were charging. Not so in the Naples case.
A primary defense tactic in these cases has been to assert the consumers were not properly using the device. But first of all, plaintiff argues he was not doing anything other than what the manufacturer instructed. Secondly, in product liability cases, it’s not always necessary to show the product was being used as intended, so long as the plaintiff can show he or she was using it in a way that was reasonably foreseeable to the manufacturer.
Plaintiff is seeking damages for permanent facial and internal scarring, recurrent health problems related to the incident and long-term psychological damage.
The hope with a case like this, aside from recovering damages for the individual plaintiff, is to effect regulatory change. Currently, there is scant government product regulation of e-cigarettes, meaning more innocent people face serious injury. Sometimes, when the government won’t step in to address these issues, the only way to motivate manufacturers to make a safer product is for personal injury lawyers to fight for steep punitive damages (intended to punish defendants) that make it less profitable to make a dangerous product.
Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.
Lawsuit Claims E-cigarette Exploded, Burned Naples Man’s Throat, Lungs, Jan. 26, 2016, By Celia Ampel, Daily Business Review
More Blog Entries:
Galvan v. Memorial Hermann Hosp. Sys. – Not All Hospital Injuries are Created Equal, Jan. 14, 2016, Naples Injury Lawyer Blog