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The lithium-ion battery manufacturer LG and two Illinois vape shops face a product liability lawsuit brought by a couple that alleges a defective e-cigarette battery exploded in the husband’s pocket, causing serious injury.
The complaint was filed by Scott and Denise Schroeck late last month in Cook County Circuit Court, indicating that LG and two Joliet stores, Rockin Vape and Tobacco Zone, failed to provide adequate warning to consumers about the risks of electronic cigarette explosions.
According to the lawsuit, the e-cigarette’s lithium-ion battery exploded in Schroeck’s pants on June 12, catching them on fire and causing second and third degree burns. As a result of the battery injury, the lawsuit indicates that Schroeck has incurred $200,000 in medical bills, and is wife also presents claims for the negative impact the injuries have had on their marriage.
Lithium ion batteries, first developed in the 1970s, are small, rechargeable, and long-lasting. Some say they are part of the reason high-end wireless technology can do all that it can do. However, the chemicals used in the battery, which are necessary to make it work, are often highly flammable.
If the battery is manufactured correctly, handled correctly and integrated into the devices correctly, they work fine. However, if one of those processes fails, the results can be an explosion or fire. The overwhelming majority of adverse events have shown lithium ion battery problems have been linked to a faulty manufacturing process, where the batteries are made without a high degree of quality control.
Lithium ion battery explosions can occur because of short circuits, or when the materials inside the battery ignite due to a chemical process called thermal runaway. These events usually occur due to damage to the battery, recharging the battery too fast, using after-market chargers, improper disposal, high heat, or placing the device in a pocket with other metal items.
Schroeck reports that he was carrying two spare batteries in his pocket the day one exploded.
As e-cigarettes and vaping have increased in popularity in recent years, there have been a growing number of reports where the devices and their batteries exploded or caught on fire. The American Burn Association reports that several hundred injuries occurred in 2015 from e-cigarettes.
The FDA warns that the true rate of injuries is under reported because typically the incidents of e-cigarette injuries, burns and explosions are reported to federal agencies after media outlets publicize the incidents. Researchers from the FDA believe that many consumers do not report explosions or overheating incidents due to either lack of injury or interest to report.
Those that have been reported have included accounts of the devices exploding while recharging, while in people’s pockets and in some cases, while in use, resulting in severe hand and face injuries.
The Federal Aviation Administration reports that since 2013 the amount of fires, burns and overheating events caused by lithium powered devices has caused over 80 emergency situations including, clearing sections of airports, emergency landings of in-flight planes, emergency evacuation of grounded planes, and several in-flight fires.
Although not all lithium-ion battery products have been banned from aviation travel, certain products such as e-cigarettes, hover boards, and Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones have had bans or restrictions put on them by the FAA, due to the potential fire risks the lithium powered products pose.
In May 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) banned all forms of electronic smoking devices such as e-cigarettes and vape pens from checked baggage on aircraft, and e-cigarette devices and batteries may not be charged aboard any aircraft. The rule was finalized by the agency following several recent reports of e-cigarettes catching on fire inside of checked luggage.