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E-Cigarette Lawsuits Filed Over Injuries, Burns from Exploding Devices

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At least three product liability lawsuits filed in California state court allege that exploding e-cigarettes caused users to suffer severe burns and other injuries. 

The complaints come amid a growing number of reports involving exploding e-cigarettes, which are electronic devices used to “vape” liquid nicotine, as an alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes.

According to a recent report released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), more than 25 separate incidents of e-cigarette explosions or fires were reported in the U.S. between 2009 and August 2014. At least nine injuries arose from those incidents, including several involving serious burns and incidents where the e-cigarette exploded while in the users mouth.

The e-cig lawsuits were filed by Daniel Califf, a former professional soccer player; Vincente Garza, of Bakersfield; and Gregory Phillips, Jr., also of Bakersfield, each involving similar allegations of burns or injuries from electronic cigarette explosions.

Califf had a hole blown through his cheek in February when an e-cigarette exploded, causing him to suffer a concussion and fire damage to the room he was in. The complaint was filed last week in Orange County Superior Court, listing an e-cigarette component distributor, UVAPER Inc., and the store where he bought it, 32nd Street Vapors, as defendants.

The allegations raised by the other two plaintiffs are similar. Phillips suffered a burned leg when his device’s battery exploded in his pocket, causing leg burns and requiring skin grafts. His lawsuit was filed in Kern County, naming Cigarette World 4, a store in Bakersfield, as a defendant.

Garza suffered the most extensive injuries, with the device exploding as he inhaled, resulting in burns to his mouth and tongue. His left index finger was also amputated as a result of the incident, and Garza is left handed. He has also required a number of tongue surgeries. His lawsuit names Flawless Vapes & Supplies, the company that made his e-cigarette, as a defendant, as well as Luxor Cafe & Vape Lounge, where he purchased the device, and Vape Flame, where he bought the charger. Garza’s lawsuit was also filed in Kern County.

The cases follow a jury verdict in September, where a Riverside County jury awarded Jennifer Ries about $1.9 million damages as part of an e-cigarette explosion lawsuit, after Ries was caught in a car fire and badly burned when her e-cigarette battery caught ignited while charging.

E-cigarettes Safety Concerns

E-cigs have become increasingly popular in recent years, as many consumers see the devices as a safer alternative to tobacco cigarettes. However, a number of safety concerns have surfaced in recent years involving the device, and the potentially harmful mixture of chemicals that users inhale.

Many reports indicate that the battery or other parts of the e-cigarette ejected under pressure and “flew across the room” in similar situations. Many times the device caused other items in the room to catch fire, including carpets, drapes, bedding, couches or vehicle seats, said the FEMA report.

The report detailed many users plug e-cigarettes into power adapters not supplied by the manufacturer because the devices use a universal USB plug. Many will use phones and laptops to charge the devices. However, the voltage and current provided by USB ports can vary significantly causing higher currents than is safe.

The FEMA report noted many users were able to extinguish the small fires themselves when the devices burned less than six inches; however in some cases more serious injuries occurred when the fire grew larger.

Explosions and fires are not the only concerns linked to the devices.

A 2014 investigative report revealed problems concerning e-cigarette devices linked to a variety of injuries, including burns, respiratory problems and nicotine toxicity. The investigation revealed more than 50 adverse event reports involving difficulty breathing, headache, cough, dizziness, sore throat, chest pain, swelling of the lips and more.

E-cigarette devices became the target of a new FDA investigation launched in July, focusing on adverse reactions, reports of injury and other incidents related to e-cigarettes. The FDA plans to review the current rules governing e-cigarettes and address the risks the devices may pose.

Last year, the American Medical Association joined the debate concerning e-cigarettes and called for stricter regulations concerning the devices. Some lawmakers are calling to have the devices banned from airplanes.

 

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