Electronic cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vaping – all are terms for a nicotine delivery device that contains no tobacco smoke. It’s hailed as a safer alternative to cigarettes and other tobacco products that burn plant matter. But an increasing number of personal injury reports are calling that safety claim into question.
Some have suffered burns. Some have lost teeth. Some have suffered facial fractures. Still others have been victims of severe internal injuries. Some of these cases stem from the fact that the chemicals inside these devices are largely unknown and unregulated. The devices have also been known to occasionally blow up.
Although statistics outlining the danger are scant, we do know the Federal Emergency Management Agency has tallied at least 25 instances of e-cigarettes exploding in the U.S. between 2009 and 2014 . However, that data is based on which cases the media reported.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the number of middle school and high school students who “vape” has tripled just in the last year – and that figure is continuing to rise. There were 1.5 percent of young folks using electronic cigarettes in 2011, compared to 16 percent in 2015. As WIRED.com reported, a cursory internet search revealed several dozen reported explosions just in 2015 alone.
The biggest problem is the lithium ion batteries. Rather than burning tobacco or other plant matter, e-cigarettes use the lithium ion batteries to heat the containers that release vapors that can be inhaled. When the battery is damaged or exposed to high heat or extreme cold, it can short circuit, overheat, catch fire or possibly even explode.
Our personal injury attorneys in Anderson see this issue most commonly with devices that are mass-manufactured overseas. Unfortunately, there has historically been no regulatory process required of these devices.
Recently, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) did announce the finalization of a rule that the FDA’s Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act extends the FDA’s authority to include regulation of “electronic nicotine delivery systems.”
This final rule will formally go into effect Aug. 8, 2016. It will allow the FDA to:
- Review any new tobacco products that aren’t yet on the market;
- Work to prevent misleading claims made by manufacturers of tobacco products;
- Evaluate the ingredients of tobacco products and how they are manufactured;
- Work to communicate the possible risks of tobacco and nicotine products.
This type of regulation is increasingly important as sales of these electronic devices are expected to soar to $18 million in 2018.
As far as liability for injuries related to these devices, victims may have a couple of different avenues.
Our injury lawyers would explore action against the manufacturer under the strict products liability theory. Based on this, consumers don’t have to prove a specific act of negligence by the defendant manufacturer. Plaintiff need only show a product was defective, it was used as intended and it still caused injury.
Secondly, we would explore a strict liability action against those who sold the product. Strict products liability extends to those who are in the chain of commerce. That includes not just the company that manufactured the product, but also the:
Liability in these cases may be joint and several, which means any one defendant in the stream of commerce may be liable for all of plaintiff’s damages, even if he or she is only partially at-fault.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Sellers of faulty vape devices may be liable, July 21, 2016, By Christopher B. Dolan, San Francisco Examiner
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