On May 5, 2018, a man in St. Petersburg, Florida, was discovered in a blazing bedroom with burns on 80 percent of his body. But apparently what killed him weren’t his burns, but his vape pen blowing up while he was using it. After an autopsy, the medical examiner listed the cause of death as projectile wounds to the man’s cranium from two pieces of the vape pen driven into his head by the force of the explosion.
The type of vape pen the man was using is known as a “mechanical mod.” His model carried the Smok-E Mountain Mech Works logo; the company is based in the Philippines. Mechanical mods differ from other vape pens and have their own set of problems. Smok-E believes the explosion is due either to the atomizer or to the use of a cloned battery (a non-authentic knockoff battery that is often of inferior quality and safety). Smok-E insists that their product does not explode.
What Makes Mechanical Mods Distinctive?
Mechanical mods are simpler than other vape pens because they are nothing but devices that deliver power directly to the atomizer. The atomizer supplies the fumes that users inhale; the entire vape pen is encased in a housing (casing) made from a variety of materials. The pen’s power is supplied by one or more lithium-ion (LI) batteries. “Mech mod” pens do not use any circuitry to regulate the voltage flowing from the batteries. For that reason, they are known as “unregulated” mods. Mech mods are considered more dangerous to use than the average vape pen or e-cigarette because the voltage produced by the LI battery can vary wildly and trigger a mishap.
Vape Pens and LI Batteries
E-cigarette and vape pen explosions occur abruptly, with noise, smoke, flames, and often the violent expulsion of the battery from the housing. Between 2009 and 2016, e-cigarettes either caught fire or exploded 195 times, causing 133 injuries. Of the wounds, 38 were severe—injuries ranged from a broken neck, third-degree burns, blindness, and the loss of the ability to speak, to broken teeth. However, until now, there have been no deaths which could be attributed to exploding e-cigarettes.
We know these facts from a report issued by the U.S. Fire Administration, a part of FEMA. Lithium-ion batteries were blamed for all of the 195 fires or explosions and were characterized as a “new and unique hazard” because they are more likely to catch fire or explode than any other types of batteries used in small electronics. The report goes on to note, “No other consumer product places a battery with a known explosion hazard such as this in such close proximity to the human body. It is this intimate contact between the body and the battery that is most responsible for the severity of the injuries that have been seen. While the failure rate of the lithium-ion batteries is very small, the consequences of a failure, as we have seen, can be severe and life-altering for the consumer.”
The electronics and batteries in e-cigarettes are not regulated for safety, although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering doing so. In the meantime, the FDA recommends:
- Preventing loose batteries from coming into contact with metal objects such as coins or keys
- Never using a phone charger with an e-cigarette device
- Never charging an e-cigarette unattended
- Never using old and new batteries together, or using different brands together.
We’re Listening. Tell Us What Happened.
Baltimore attorney Steve Heisler has devoted his entire legal practice to representing personal injury cases, including product liability injuries. Steve and his associates can track down negligent manufacturers, sue them, and obtain damages and settlements to help you get your life back on track.
There’s no excuse for injury and death due to dangerous and defective products. If you or a family member has suffered from a defective product injury, contact The Maryland Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler. Keep in mind, however, that there is a statute of limitations – or a time limit – for filing personal injury claims, so you should not delay. Call us today for a free initial consultation or, if you prefer, use our confidential online form.