Every day brings a dramatic new story about illnesses and deaths claimed to be tied to e-cigarettes, also known as vapes. E-cigarettes allow users to inhale nicotine vapor, as opposed to smoke (the conduit for nicotine in traditional cigarettes). To date, several hundred cases of injuries and illnesses allegedly traceable to e-cigarettes have been reported in the United States, and many have arisen in Colorado. A quick internet search also shows dozens of regional and national plaintiffs’ law firms soliciting e-cigarette consumers to sign up to pursue personal injury, wrongful death and consumer class action lawsuits.
E-cigarette and vaping lawsuits reflect a range of allegations, such as addiction to particular brands of e-cigarettes and the chemicals they employ, to claims of bronchiolitis obliterans (“popcorn lung”), seizures, and even strokes. Another notable subset involves e-cigarette battery explosions. Many complaints separately highlight the marketing of e-cigarette products, asserting that manufacturers and sellers are aiming these products at minors. It is likely in Colorado that lawsuits will also involve allegations of deceptive trade practices, which could entitle a successful plaintiff to recover three times actual damages, plus attorney fees.
It is important for manufacturers and sellers of e-cigarette and vape-related products to retain counsel immediately if a claim is received from a customer alleging injury. Hall & Evans has already represented manufacturers and sellers of e-cigarette components in serious personal injury and product liability lawsuits in state and federal courts. Presently, these cases can be favorably positioned for a successful defense under Colorado law by referencing our product liability and consumer protection statutes, citing to recent case law, and through careful, proactive attorney and expert evaluation.
E-cigarette and vaping claims may represent the next big wave of nationwide product liability lawsuits. Even if claims are ultimately defensible, the highly technical battles over liability, causation and damages are expensive (and risky) to wage. Whether manufacturers and sellers of e-cigarette and vaping products – and the industry as a whole – can withstand the glare of the media spotlight and serious litigation and regulatory consequences remains to be seen.