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Dangers of Defective E-Cigarettes: Florida Man Dies in Vape Pen Explosion

February 19, 2019 by Michael Sawaya

Man using vape or ecigarette for smoking.

In May 2018, a disturbing news report came out of Florida: A St. Petersburg man had died in a vape pen explosion. When firefighters arrived, they found “extensive” fire damage in the man’s second-floor bedroom, according to CBS News. Burns covered around 80 percent of his body. In the explosion, two vape pen fragments flew into his skull.

The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) reports that lithium-ion battery failures cause most e-cigarette fires and explosions. Because people use these devices so close to their bodies – they stick them in their mouths, for instance, or carry them around in their pockets – these incidents can cause devastating injuries, the USFA states. This is why current-generation lithium-ion batteries are “not a safe source of energy for these devices,” according to the USFA.

The Sawaya Law Firm protects the rights of injured consumers in Denver and throughout Colorado. Our record goes back to 1977. If you have suffered injuries in a vape pen fire or explosion, contact us today for a free review of your case and to learn more about defective vape pen lawsuits.

Why Do Vape Pen Explosions Happen?

You can find many different types of vape pens, or “e-cigarettes,” on the market these days in Colorado. Juul is one of the most popular brands. The device looks like a computer thumb drive. Other devices look more like cigarettes. At one end of the device, there is a mouthpiece. At the other end, there is a battery.

A lithium-ion battery serves as the energy source in nearly all vape pens. The battery powers the heating element, which converts liquid to a vapor. This heating element is often called an “atomizer.”

A film separates the anode and cathode parts in a lithium-ion battery. This film consists of an electrolyte which is combustible. So, if the battery in a vape pen overheats, it can ignite this electrolyte and cause a fire or explosion to occur.

Because most vape pens are cylindrical, this explosion can act like a “flaming rocket,” according to the USFA. Many people suffer burns, fractures, lacerations and other serious injuries due to explosions which occurred while they were using the device or while they were carrying it around in their pockets.

Reports Say Florida Man Died from Shrapnel Wound to Head

CBS News reports that shrapnel from the vape pen entered the man’s cranium in the fatal Florida e-cigarette explosion in May 2018. The man also suffered extensive burn injuries. His bedroom show signs of heavy fire damage.

The vape pen manufacturer, Philippines-based Smok-E Mountain, denied that its devices explode. The company said the atomizer or battery may have played a role. Some companies “clone” their batteries, which causes safety risks, the company told CBS News.

In a report about the incident, CNN stated that the device involved in this fatal explosion was one of the larger vaporizers on the market, which tend to come with “larger and more powerful batteries.”

Vape Pen Fires and Explosions Cause Many Non-Fatal Injuries

The USFA found that 195 vape pen fires and explosions occurred in the U.S. between 2009 and 2016. Those incidents resulted in three categories of injuries:

  • Severe (38 of 195, 19.5 percent) – Where the victim required hospitalization and/or suffered loss of a body part, third-degree burns or facial injuries.
  • Moderate (80 of 195, 41 percent) – Where the victim required emergency room treatment for injuries such as smoke inhalation, second-degree burns or cuts needing stitches (typically, no hospitalization was necessary).
  • Minor (15 of 195, 7.7 percent) – Where the victim suffered injuries such as first-degree burns, smoke inhalation or minor cuts (which may or may not have required emergency room treatment).

In 62 cases, no injury occurred, or the injury was unknown. In seven cases, the incident occurred in Colorado:

  • November 2011 (Greeley)

Use-related. Severe injuries. The victim was hospitalized for eight days after the e-cigarette exploded in his face, sending burning debris and battery acid into his eyes, mouth and face.

  • November 2013 (Colorado Springs)

Charge-related. Moderate injuries. The device was left unattended while charging on the floor. It ignited the bed. A home occupant suffered burns to the arms, hands and face while using a blanket to smother the flames.

  • November 2015 (Colorado Springs)

Use-related. Severe injuries. The device exploded near the victim’s face. The victim suffered fractured neck vertebrae, facial fractures, fractured teeth and other reported injuries.

  • January 2016 (Aurora)

Pocket-related. Moderate injuries. The device ignited in the victim’s pants pocket. The victim suffered second- and third-degree burns on the leg and hands.

  • February 2016 (Castle Rock)

Pocket-related. Moderate injuries. The device ignited in the victim’s pants pocket. The victim suffered second- and third-degree burns on the leg and hands.

  • March 2016 (Aurora)

Use-related. Severe injuries. The device exploded in the victim’s face. The victim suffered second- and third-degree burns to the chest, neck, face and eyes.

  • April 2016 (Colorado Springs)

Pocket-related. Moderate injuries. A spare battery ignited inside the victim’s pants pocket (keys and coins were reported to be in the pocket). The victim suffered second- and third-degree burns to the leg.

What You Do After a Vape Pen Fire or Explosion

If you have suffered burns, fractures, cuts or other severe injuries due to a vape pen fire or explosion, you should take steps to protect your health and your legal rights. In addition to getting prompt medical attention, you should:

  • Keep the device. Hold on to the vape pen or other type of e-cigarette device that was involved in the incident, including any parts that broke off. You should also see if you still have the package and instructions that came with it.
  • Report it to the FDA. Right now, no agency regulates the batteries and other electronics in vape pens. However, that could always change. You will help the FDA to assess and address vape pen fires and explosions by reporting your event.
  • Get help from a lawyer. You owe it to yourself to learn about your rights and options, including the ability to seek compensation for your losses. A lawyer can review your case, protect your rights and fight for what you are due.

Our Colorado Defective E-Cigarette Lawyers Can Help You

The Sawaya Law Firm brings more than four decades of product liability litigation experience to the clients we serve. Our attorneys are investigating vape pen fire and explosion cases in Colorado now, and we are learning more and more every day about the dangers of these devices. To discuss how we can help you, call or reach us online today for a free consultation.

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