Michael Phelan and Jonathan Petty | Virginia Trial Attorneys

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E-cigarette and vape battery explosions

E-cigarette or vaporizer incident? Call the product liability attorneys at Phelan Petty today.

E-cigarettes or electronic vaporizers are battery-powered devices that simulate tobacco smoking by producing a heated vapor. They contain a heating element that vaporizes a liquid solution. The power source for the devices are lithium-ion batteries, which can in many cases fail and explode, harming users or those nearby.

Phelan Petty has an extensive background in products liability cases and is currently working with clients who have been burned by defective e-cigarette or vape batteries.

If you have been burned by an e-cigarette battery and wish to have a confidential discussion of your legal rights, contact the e-cigarette attorneys at Phelan Petty. We are experienced Virginia products liability attorneys and have experience nationwide.

CALL TOLL-FREE: 866.249.3164

Email: info@phelanpetty.com

Get the facts on e-cigarette and vaporizer battery explosions. Even though these devices are blowing up in consumers’ faces and in their pockets, they have gone largely unregulated. The civil justice system is the only way to hold the manufacturers of these defective devices responsible and to effect the change necessary to make these devices safer.

Fact #1: It’s the battery that overheats

E-cigarettes use a cylindrical lithium-ion battery, made by winding alternating layers of metallic anode and cathode material separated by a porous film that holds a liquid electrolyte. This anode/cathode core is placed into a cylindrical metal tube through an open end, and the tube is then sealed. All of the electrolytes currently used by lithium-ion battery manufacturers are either flammable or combustible. These electrolytes can cause fire and explosions when the battery overheats.

Fact #2: Battery failures are more dangerous in E-Cigarettes than in other devices

There are many electronic consumer devices powered by lithium-ion batteries: laptops, cellphones, medical devices, and even electric cars. Some of these devices – like the Samsung 7 and children’s hover boards – have been in the news due to battery fires. However, such fires are not nearly as explosive as those from the e-cigarette battery.

The reason? E-cigarette batteries are housed differently than the batteries used in most other portable electronic devices. The metal tube (or “can”) in which the e-cigarette battery is housed has its weakest structural point at the ends where it is sealed. When this seal ruptures due to thermal runaway pressure inside the cylinder, there is a violent explosion. This explosion can cause the burning battery and/or container end to be propelled like a small rocket. One only has to visit YouTube and search “E Cigarette Explosion” to see what happens when this explosion occurs inside one’s pants pocket or while the consumer is holding the device.

Unlike e-cigarettes, the cylindrical lithium-ion batteries used in other electronic consumer devices are housed in rigid plastic cases that are generally strong enough to able to prevent the overheated battery from being propelled out of the device. So, while fires in these devices do occur, the fire is usually contained within the device. Alternatively, some electronic devices, like cellphones and tablets, use pouch-type batteries that are flat rather than cylindrical, and are housed in a sealed plastic case instead of a metal tube. These flat, pouch batteries will not build up much pressure and do not explode, but when they overheat the plastic pouch can burst, allowing the fire to spread beyond the device. This is why Samsung 7s are banned from airplanes.

Fact #3: Fires and Explosions can occur during charging

There is no reliable government source of data on the number of e-cigarette fires, so articles that attempt to estimate the number of fires rely on media reports. While this may be the only source of data, one must recognize that it is an inherently unreliable source, since not all instances of e-cigarette fires are covered in the news. Indeed, our firm represents clients who were burned in e-cigarette battery fires that were not covered by the media.

The U.S. Fire Administration has estimated that 80% of the incidents reported by the media occurred during charging of the battery. Many e-cigarettes have a USB port for connecting the device to a power adapter; some manufacturers provide charging devices with the e-cigarette while others provide nothing more than a USB cord.

Adapters allow the battery to be charged in a variety of sources, including computer USB ports, automobile USB ports, and wall outlets. In most cases, the batteries are made in china, and instructions that come with the device are obviously written by a person whose first language is Chinese. The instructions do not tell the consumer which USB ports are safe or dangerous to use for charging.

Unfortunately, voltage and current supplied by USB ports can vary significantly, and subjecting the battery to a current that is higher than the current the battery can handle may lead to thermal runaway that results in fire and/or explosion.

Fact #4: Fires and Explosions also happen during use, transport, and when the battery is stored separate from the device

With the recent popularity of different types of vaping devices, the percentage of incidents that occur while not charging has gone up. eCig One reports that of 214 explosions:

• 57 happened during use
• 79 happened during charging
• 44 happened during transport, storage, or unknown circumstance
• 34 involved spare batteries

If you or someone you know has a case involving an exploding lithium battery, including an exploding e-cigarette or vape device, please contact us at (866) 249-3164 for a free, confidential consultation. You can also email us at info@phelanpetty.com.

By the way: In the end, the safest approach is to avoid using e-cigarettes – for both the battery explosion issue, and for your own health.