E-Cigarette Malfunction Causes Fire on Airplane

Earlier this month, the passengers and crew on an American Airlines flight bore firsthand witness to the dangers of e-cigarette malfunction. Once the plane landed in Chicago on Friday, January 4th, an electronic cigarette battery overheated in a passenger’s carry-on bag, causing a small fire to break out.

Because flight attendants are now well-trained in extinguishing battery fires, they were able to remedy the situation before the plane even reached the gate – and thankfully, none of the 138 passengers were injured in the fire. However, e-cigarette batteries still pose a significant explosion risk, especially on airplanes.

If you or your loved one have been injured due to an e-cigarette malfunction, you could be entitled to damages. Our Milwaukee personal injury attorneys at Casey Law Offices, S.C. are very familiar with this type of accident, and we can help you seek the compensation you need for your injuries.

The Risk of E-Cigarette Explosion

This isn’t the first time an e-cigarette malfunction caused problems for American Airlines. Back in December 2016, a malfunctioning e-cigarette exploded after a passenger tried to use it in the bathroom. Although no one was hurt in that fire either, the plane was forced to make an emergency landing.

Because e-cigarettes have a higher risk of malfunctioning under flight conditions, the U.S. Transportation Department banned them from all checked luggage in 2015, and prohibited all active use of e-cigarettes on flights. Although it’s rare for e-cigarettes to combust when not in use, it’s still possible, as demonstrated by the recent incident on American Airlines.

More than 195 e-cigarette fires and explosions were recorded between 2009 and 2016, and of those incidents:

  • 18 took place while the e-cigarette device or battery was in storage
  • 48 took place while the e-cigarette battery was charging
  • 60 took place while the e-cigarette was in use
  • 61 took place when either the device or its spare batteries were in a pocket
  • 133 of these fires caused acute injuries

The first death caused by an e-cigarette malfunction occurred last May, in Pinnellas County, Fla. Thirty-eight year old Tallmadge Wakeman D’Elia died when his e-cigarette created a “projectile wound” on his head, penetrating through his skill and brain. The Pinnellas County medical examiner said the vape was from Smok-E Mountain Mech Works, a type of unregulated mechanical mod e-cigarette, which in an online description says "does not come with safety features.”

Unfortunately, as e-cigarette use has continued to climb, so has the risk of injury by explosion. The CDC reports that more than 1 in 10 US adults have now tried an e-cigarette, even if they don’t use them regularly.

What Causes E-Cigarette Malfunctions?

E-cigarette malfunctions most often start with their lithium-ion batteries, which are incredibly flammable and combustible. Once a lithium-ion battery is exposed to extreme heat, it can easily catch fire. Lithium-ion battery failure can also occur without warning because of an internal defect. Some may even explode when a poorly-designed loose battery comes into contact with metal, such as coins or keys.

The most common causes for overheating in lithium-ion batteries include:

  • Overcharging a device
  • Overheating from an external source
  • Charging with an incompatible power adapter
  • Using the wrong USB port
  • Overcharging with an unprotected battery

Regardless of the root cause, lithium battery malfunctions frequently cause e-cigarettes to explode in the users’ pocket or hands, leading to catastrophic injuries and chemical burns. More than 1 in 5 of these injuries occur on the face, which can leave patients scarred for life.

Until lithium-ion batteries become safer, we will likely continue to hear about accidents and tragedies involving electronic cigarettes, especially as more users get hooked on electronic cigarettes. At Casey Law Offices, S.C., our compassionate product liability lawyers can help you fight back if another party’s negligence led to your serious injuries. We’ve been helping the injured for more than 25 years, and we’re completely committed to your full recuperation.

Contact us today at (414) 272-3776 for a free consultation on your Wisconsin e-cigarette malfunction case. You won’t have to pay until we can win.

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