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| Chaffin Luhana LLP

A Texas man recently filed an e-cigarette explosion lawsuit in Harris County. He names as defendants both the store that sold him the lithium-ion battery that allegedly caused the explosion, and LG Chem Lit., who manufactured the battery.

This is one of many similar lawsuits being filed against the manufacturers and distributors of lithium-ion batteries, which can become dangerous under certain conditions. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2016 that dozens of such suits had been filed in New York, California, and Florida, and other states, and that most of the suits involve consumers who suffered burn injuries.

E-Cigarette Explodes; Shrapnel Lodged In Plaintiff’s Mouth

LG Chem is a Korean electronics manufacturer founded in 1947 that today produces lithium-ion batteries, as well as automotive batteries and mobile batteries. The plaintiff claims that he was using an e-cigarette with an LG battery when it exploded in his face. Part of the device lodged in his mouth and throat. He has X-ray evidence to show the object lodged deep into his mouth.

The plaintiff suffered what he refers to as dramatic and devastating injuries, totaling over $1 million in damages.

Doctors Predict More Patients Will End Up in the Hospital with E-Cigarette Injuries

In a 2016 letter to the editor published by the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), a number of doctors from the University of Washington Medical Center stated that most e-cigarette users don’t understand the risk of “thermal runaway,” whereby the lithium-ion battery may overheat and cause a fire or an explosion. Between October 2015 and June 2016, the doctors treated 15 patients with injuries from these types of explosions, which they noted were originally thought to be rare, they’re actually not.

The injuries seen among their patients included flame and chemical burns and blast injuries to the face, hands, and thigh or groin. Some of the blast injuries led to tooth loss, traumatic tattooing (black burns), and extensive loss of soft tissue requiring operative debridement and closure. The flame-burn injuries required extensive wound care and skin grafting, and the chemical injuries also required wound care.

The doctors predicted that with the growing use of e-cigarettes, “many hospitals around the country will see an increase in injuries related to e-cigarette explosions.” They add that though the FDA has now extended its regulatory authority to cover e-cigarettes, “the prospects for battery regulation remain unclear.” They concluded that e-cigarettes are a “public safety concern that demands increased regulation as well as design changes to improve safety.”

U.S. Fire Administration Reports on Hundreds of Explosions and Injuries

In July 2017, the U.S. Fire Administration released a report on e-cigarette fires and explosions between 2009 and 2016. They predicted that the number of incidents and injuries “will continue to increase,” noting that the current generation of lithium-ion batteries is the root cause of these incidences.

“It is clear that these batteries are not a safe source of energy for these devices,” they stated, reporting that during the study period, there were 195 separate incidents of explosions and fires involving an e-cigarette reported by the U.S. media and that 133 of these resulted in acute injuries. A total of 121 of the incidents involved a device in use or stored in a consumer’s pocket.

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