Lawsuits Filed Against Stores Selling E-Cigarettes

Three lawsuits were filed on Thursday against local stores selling e-cigarettes after some smokers suffered severe burns when their e-cigarettes exploded in their faces.

The attorney representing the plaintiffs said they would go after the manufacturers of the devices, but most of them are in China and shielded from civil litigation.

Vicente Garza, 23, said his electronic cigarette blew up while he was in the bathroom resulting in the loss of a finger, burns to his face, his speech permanently altered.

"It was pretty loud. My whole family woke up," he said. "I grabbed a towel and put it to my mouth because it was bleeding quite a bit."

Other cases involved an e-cigarette exploding next to a man's face, sending part of the device blasting through his cheek.

Another suffered severe burns to his legs when an e-cigarette blew up in his pocket.

All three cases have been combined in a lawsuit filed against three e-cigarette shops in Southern California.

"The phone is ringing off the hook," said attorney Gregory Bentley. "This is happening all over the country."

In a separate case in Florida last month, an e-cigarette exploded in the face of a man, sending part of the device down his throat.

At issue is the battery and heating element that turn the tobacco-like fluid into a vapor, Bentley said.

"These explosions are occurring because the batteries are overcharging," he said. "It is all about education."

Richard Lubas, of the Vape Theory in Glendale, said e-cigarettes are safe, so long as they are used in accordance to manufacturer guidelines.

"That is just following the education of the people at the store where you are buying your equipment from," he said.

One maker, Ever Smoke, assures on its website that the vast majority of e-cigarettes will not explode in your face.

Bentley said if that's true they should put that on the package.

"If they are going to put on a package, 'be careful, this could explode in your face,' Who is going to buy that?"

His client offers his own warning.

"It can be dangerous," Garza said. "It is not something to play around with."

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