A California jury awarded a woman who was badly burned by an exploding e-cigarette nearly $2 million, one of the biggest awards in a product liability lawsuit against an e-cigarette manufacturer.
Jennifer Ries, 31, of San Clemente, Calif., was traveling to the airport with her husband, Xavier, in March 2013 to catch a flight to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where they were going to help build a community center for children living in the slums.
On the road, Ms. Ries decided to charge her VapCigs-brand e-cigarette and used the manufacturer’s charger to plug the device into the car’s cigarette lighter. Soon after, liquid and metal started dripping from the battery, filling the car with an acrid chemical odor and smoke.
The e-cigarette then exploded with a loud bang, setting Ms. Ries’ dress and car seat on fire. The device shot hot chemicals onto her legs, backside, and hand, leaving her with second-degree burns. On fire and in a panic, she tried to jump from the moving vehicle but her husband pulled her back in and doused the flames with iced coffee.
Ms. Ries told the Los Angeles Times that the accident “completely changed my life.” Her lawsuit alleges it gave her lasting physical and emotional scars.
VapCigs, its wholesaler Cartons 2 Go, and Tobacco Expo, the Corona, Calif., store where she bought the e-cigarette, were “involved in the distribution of a product that failed to conform to any kind of reasonable safety expectation — battery chargers should not explode — and failed to warn about known dangers,” the lawsuit alleged.
According to the Los Angeles Times, many e-cigarettes use lithium-ion batteries made with flammable liquid electrolytes that can cause the battery to explode when overheated. This can happen during charging if the devices receive too much voltage.
The e-cigarette that Ms. Ries bought from Tobacco Expo included a charger that could be plugged into a USB port or a car cigarette lighter. The lithium-ion battery, however, could hold a charge less than 4.2 volts, yet the charge provided by the cigarette lighter is about 5 volts, Ms. Ries’ complaint said.
Additionally, the instructions provided with the e-cigarette said the device could be charged in a car charger but did not indicate there were any dangers in doing so. After Ms. Ries was injured by the exploding VapCigs device, the company began warning consumers not to charge the e-cigarettes in a car charger.
Ms. Ries’ lawyer told the Los Angeles Times that the defendants admitted the product was defective and failed to properly warn users of the defects. However, they disputed the nature and extent of Ms. Ries’ injuries.
The six-day trial ended Sept. 30 with the Riverside County Superior Court awarding Ms. Ries $1.9 million.
Source: Los Angeles Times