E-Cigarette Litigation

“Vaping”, or the use of e-cigarettes, is viewed by many as a healthier – or perhaps less-damaging – alternative to smoking.  E-cigarettes utilize battery power to vaporize a liquid containing nicotine that the consumer then inhales. Although vaping is marketed as a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes, the use of e-cigarettes appears to carry numerous risks, prompting a wave of litigation.

Typically, cases involving e-cigarettes fall into one of the following three categories:

  1. Consumer Fraud, Unfair Competition and False Advertising – Consumers allege that the companies marketing and manufacturing e-cigarettes have made false claims that their products have health benefits or are a safe alternative to smoking, despite evidence that e-cigarettes contain carcinogens and other chemicals.
  1. Failure to Warn – Similar to the above, these claims focus on the e-cigarette companies’ failure to warn consumers of product content that could cause illness.
  1.  Product Malfunction and Design Defect – Plaintiffs in these cases allege that e-cigarettes, their batteries and chargers, are unsafe and that the suppliers of these products fail to warn of the defects and potential injuries that could be caused by them.

Indeed, there have been numerous cases of fire incidents arising from the use of e-cigarettes. In a 2014 report, the United States Fire Administration (USFA) identified 25 separate reports of e-cigarette fire incidents between 2009 and 2014. In one case involving  a fire, the plaintiff alleged that the e-cigarette battery exploded while being charged in a vehicle.  Plaintiff claims she suffered second-degree burns on her legs, buttocks and hands and brought suit against the distributor, wholesaler and retailer.  The jury awarded a verdict of $2 million.  In another case, the Plaintiff filed suit against the e-cigarette’s manufacturer and designer, as well as the retailer, alleging that an e-cigarette exploded near his face, burning his mouth and hand.

Assuming e-cigarettes continue to enjoy widespread popularity, it is likely that there will be a rise in litigation in the coming years.  Hopefully, these suits and their outcomes will serve to hold manufacturers accountable and ultimately ensure that the products are safe to the consuming public and carry the appropriate warnings and other labels, so that would-be consumers are well-informed before they choose to vape.

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