New Mexico E-Cigarette Shop Hit with $2.5 million Jury Verdict for Defective Lithium-Ion Battery

A New Mexico man has been awarded $2.5 million in damages for injuries caused by a defective lithium-ion e-cigarette battery. The incident, which happened back in 2016, left Andrew Dean Snelling with extreme burns on his hands and left leg due to the battery catching fire in his pocket. 

The battery was produced by Chinese manufacturer Shenzhen MXJO, which was released from the suit because the court did not have jurisdiction over the company. Because of this, the court came down on the shop that sold the defective e-cigarette battery. 

The shop, Tribal Vapors of Alamogordo, did not retain legal counsel or appear in the case. 

This incident is among many other e-cigarette lawsuits involving defective lithium-ion e-cigarette batteries that have caught fire or exploded, causing severe burns and even death. According to a study from George Mason University, there were at least 2,000 visits to emergency rooms in the US for e-cigarette related burns and explosion-related injuries from 2015-2017. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has also published a review of the common injuries in these incidents. 

The 18650 lithium-ion battery has been most commonly linked to vape battery malfunctions. This battery is used in many products other than e-cigarettes, like power tools, flashlights, laptops and even electric cars. In consumer products, the 18650 usually requires users to manually remove the battery from the product in order to charge it. This action can damage the insulating wrapper, potentially leading to metal-to-metal contact and causing fires and explosions. 

The FDA has published tips to avoid vape battery explosions. President of the American Vape Association George Conley provides the following guidance to people using 18650 lithium-ion batteries: 

  • Never use a battery that has been damaged, or exposed to extreme temperatures
  • Do not store 18650 batteries in pockets or bags. Always use a protective case, sold in most vape shops, for storage.
  • Do not leave batteries on a charger longer than necessary
  • Do not get batteries wet
  • Move away from the device quickly if you feel it getting abnormally warm
  • Do not block ventilation holes on the device



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