West Virginia Record

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Trial lawyer: Design flaw makes e-cigarettes dangerous


By West Virginia Record Submission | Feb 28, 2019

Electronic cigarette lawyer
Hutchison and Stoy

Though e-cigarettes are being marketed as a safer alternative to tobacco smoking, design flaws in the products can cause severe injuries or even kill their users, an attorney representing several plaintiffs in personal-injury cases said.

E-cigarettes and vaping devices often contain substandard lithium-ion batteries rejected by major battery manufacturers, attorney Chris Stoy, a partner in the Fort Worth law firm Hutchison & Stoy, recently told the Legal Newsline. Other companies buy these rejects and sell them in vape shops, he said.

Since the power ratings for lithium-ion batteries are not as clearly marked as those on alkaline batteries for household use, the wrong batteries can be used in the vaping devices, Stoy asserted.

Susan Hutchison and Chris Stoy

“You can have two lithium-ion batteries of the same size but with two different power ratings,” he said. “When you take an unmarked battery meant to be charged to a low voltage and recharge it on a higher-voltage charger, you have an explosion.”

That scenario is what may have happened to one of Stoy’s clients who suffered a severed neck artery after using an e-cigarette and later died of his injuries.

Other clients have suffered burns when the e-cigarette devices – made with questionable safety, Stoy said – accidentally ignite when the wrong combination of buttons is pressed while stored in the user’s pocket.

Although some studies show vaping can be safer than tobacco cigarettes, the opposite may be true. In 2017, a doctor told USA Today the latest wave of USB-sized Juul e-cigarettes could be delivering highly addictive doses to teens, a target consumer of vaping.

E-cigarettes heat and vaporize a flavored nicotine solution that can have the equivalent of 20 packs of cigarettes, Stoy said. If a person who vapes runs through two or three Juul pods a day, it is the equivalent of three packs, he said.

Stoy and his law partner, Susan Hutchison, have been involved in personal injury cases linked to vaping almost since vaporizers hit U.S. markets in 2007. So far, most have been defective-product lawsuits, where burns or other injuries are immediate. However, he noted it was too early to gauge whether long-term health consequences would soon become the focus of legal action.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see those suits coming soon,” Stoy said. “The medical research is catching up, and doctors say if you’ve been vaping you’ve been doing as much damage to your lungs as cigarettes.”

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Hutchison & Stoy