A Tennessee man who suffered facial injuries when an e-cigarette exploded in his face has filed a lawsuit against multiple parties, alleging they made and sold a “defective and unreasonably dangerous” device.
David Bishop, 25, of Cordova, Tennessee, was using his e-cigarette last May just before work when the device suddenly exploded in his mouth. The explosion blasted Mr. Bishop with fragments of the shattered e-cigarette, ripping a hole through his left cheek to his upper lip and fracturing several of his teeth. Battery acid and heat from the device’s batteries left him with chemical and thermal burns to his mouth, tongue and face.
Pieces of the e-cig also blasted upward, burning the ceiling and wall of Mr. Bishop’s home, according to the complaint.
Now Mr. Bishop wants to hold the companies involved in the manufacture and sales of the allegedly defective e-cig accountable. He filed his lawsuit in state court in October. The complaint subsequently was moved to federal court in February.
The lawsuit names Create A Cig, the store where he purchased the e-cigarette, along with the California-based e-cig product manufacturer VGOD, and LG Electronics USA Inc., an American unit of the South Korean electronics firm that allegedly made the lithium-ion batteries that exploded inside the e-cig.
Mr. Bishop seeks monetary damages in an amount to be determined by the court. He alleged the e-cigarette explosion caused permanent disfigurement and forced him to miss weeks of work. The treatment for his injuries included 65 facial stitches and he faces future medical costs as well, his lawsuit claims. His complaint will go to trial in June 2020 if it is not settled out of court before then.
In a July 2017 report on e-cigarette explosions, the U.S. Fire Administration said: “the consequences (of an e-cig explosion) can be devastating and life-altering for the victims.” The report added that “it is likely that the number of incidents and injuries will continue to increase.”
The U.S. Fire Administration indicates that the cylindrical design of the lithium-ion batteries makes them inherently unsafe. Unlike flat lithium-ion batteries used in cell phones, the shape of an e-cigarette batery allows it to build up pressure until it ruptures, typically at the end of the battery.
“As a result of the battery and container failure, one or the other, or both, can be propelled across the room like a bullet or small rocket,” the report states.
A recent study of e-cigarette injuries based on an analysis of data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) found that U.S. hospitals treated an estimated 2,035 patients for burn injuries related to e-cigarette explosions between 2015 and 2017. That number is more than 15 times higher than the 130 annual e-cigarette explosion injuries reported by the U.S. Fire Administration in 2017, indicating that e-cig-related explosions and injuries are more common than many people think.
E-cigarette explosions also caused the deaths of at least two people in the U.S.
But despite the dangers of blast and burn injuries that e-cigarettes continue to pose, the industry usually blames the consumer for malfunctions.
This is the strategy the defendants in Mr. Bishop’s case reportedly are taking. According to the Commercial Appeal of Memphis, Tennessee, court documents show that the Austin, Texas-based e-cigarette retail chain Create A Cig offers more than 30 legal defenses in Mr. Bishop’s case, including that the plaintiff’s “claims are barred because he assumed the risk of using the device, and that the explosion is his own fault.”
Similarly, VGOD claims it didn’t make the e-cigarette, nor is it sure who did. The Commercial Appeal says the company alleges Mr. Bishop “brought the explosion on himself.”
“Plaintiff so carelessly and negligently conducted himself that he, by his own negligence, contributed directly and proximately to his own injuries,” the lawyers for VGOD wrote. However, Commercial Appeal notes that lawyers for the companies do not cite any specific actions by Mr. Bishop that triggered the explosion.
Additional source: WMC-TV Action News 5