A couple in California was driving to the airport on March 25th when an electronic cigarette battery they had recharging via a USB plug began emitting a harsh smell, dripping, and then exploded. The couple is now suing VapCigs for an undisclosed amount of money for trauma and damages.
Unlike some other reported incidents, this one sounds pretty legitimate. According to an article from the Southern California’s Press-Enterprise, the explosion lit Jennifer Ries’s dress and seat cushion on fire. She attempted to jump out of the car while her husband held onto her and attempted to get the car off the highway.
You can read the story here.
There’s a couple things that do jump out in this scenario.
First, recharging any lithium ion battery should be done with care. Laptop batteries, phone batteries, and more use the technology, but it is not unheard of that the batteries can overheat while recharging if not paid attention to. Whether this information was made clear to Ries when she purchased the e-cig or not is unclear. The lawyer is focusing on the unregulated nature of e-cigs as an argument that the companies are acting negligently and a tragedy was bound to happen.
If electronic cigarette batteries go through the same tests, checks, and quality controls as phone and laptop batteries though, VapCigs might be able to push the blame on to manufacturers or simply state that the technology failing is not indicative of negligence. Either way, companies may need to be clearer about safe battery practices.
Second, the image of Ries and her lawyer (the first to show in the article for whatever reason) seems to make the situation look like one or both is pushing for public attention such that they can bully VapCigs into settling for more than might otherwise be fair. It seems unlikely that Ries is fabricating the incident and we certainly don’t want to take anything away from the trauma she suffered. However, the article gives the vibe that it was placed for a reason. That reason may be to scare VapCigs into pushing up their settlement offer.
This is certainly a lesson for both companies and consumers. Companies should be clearer on proper use. They should tell people if charging their battery in a 100 degree car will create problems (that may not be the case here, but it has been in the past for some). Consumers should be more aware of the products they’re using.