E-Cigarettes are a popular new alternative to traditional cigarette smoking. They came onto the market in approximately 2007, and have been marketed in a variety of ways, one of which is to assist the user in stopping smoking traditional cigarettes; also, some cite convenience and vapor flavor options. The components of an e-cigarette transform an electrolyte based flavored liquid into a vapor that is inhaled by the user. The re-chargeable lithium-ion battery provides the power, which heats a coil and then the liquid.
Sometimes these devices explode. The explosions are usually sudden, significant, and without warning. Many people have suffered and continue to suffer serious injuries from e-cigarette explosions. Injuries range from skin burns, to more serious, permanent injuries involving facial and other body part disfigurement. They explode while being charged, and often, while in use or being transported in a pants pocket or purse. When the explosion occurs, because a fuel is being ignited, it is common during explosions, for the device to be propelled like a small rocket, which can harm others and cause property damage.
The FDA is holding an e-cigarette workshop on explosions in April, 2017, as the FDA continues to gather data on these products. E The lack of prior FDA regulation does not in any way shield sellers of these products from civil liability for damages suffered by users.
The law of strict products liability applies to the sale of an e-cigarette. South Carolina law imposes strict liability on the seller of a product, which at the time of sale is unreasonably dangerous to the consumer while a product is being used in a manner that is reasonably foreseeable. A South Carolina statute states that “[o]ne who sells any product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer or to his property is subject to liability for physical harm caused to the ultimate user or consumer, or to his property if (a) The seller is engaged in the business of selling such a product, and (b) It is expected to and does reach the user or consumer without substantial change in the condition in which it is sold.” S.C. Code Ann. 15-73-10(1)(a)-(b).
The statute goes on to say that this strict liability is in force, even if the seller “has exercised all possible care in the preparation and sale of the product, and the user or consumer has not bought the product from, or entered into any contractual relationship with the seller.” S.C. Code Ann. 15-73-10 (2)(a)-(b).” (emphasis added).
Depending on the circumstances of the case, other legal doctrines such as statutory and common law sellers warranties may apply; and common law principles of negligence may apply to the circumstances of a sale. Typical concerns are the extent of knowledge of the dangers on the part of the seller, its ownership, management, and employees. Employee training comes into question. The existence and methods of warnings is also an area for attorney inquiry. We want to find out not only what happened, but why it happened, so that our work on the case may hopefully assist in preventing others from being injured in the future.
The McKnight Law Firm is now accepting e-cigarette explosion cases for evaluation. We recommend that after an incident, that the device be immediately preserved as evidence. It is also crucial that no person tamper with the burned device. We recommend that you gather all sales data to establish the date, time and location of sale, whether it be purchased locally at a “vape shop,” or online. Also, if there was any literature or written warnings that were given with the e-cigarette at the time of sale, or thereafter, those documents need to be preserved as evidence.
Photograph your bodily injuries and property damages following the explosion. After seeking medical care, contact our law firm so that we may begin an immediate investigation into the circumstances surrounding the explosion, including information on the seller of the device.
At the McKnight Law Firm, our goal is to give you quality representation and peace of mind as soon as possible following incidents involving serious injuries or the loss of a loved one. Let us know if we can help.