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Queens Judge Green-Lights Claims Over Exploding E-Cig Battery

An e-cigarette/Credit: joseluisserranoariza/Shutterstock.com

An e-cigarette/Credit: joseluisserranoariza/Shutterstock.com

A Queens County judge on Friday refused to dismiss three companies from a products liability suit stemming from an e-cigarette battery that exploded and caught fire in a woman's pocket.

New York Supreme Court Judge Robert J. McDonald ruled that Madvapes Holdings, Vape Easy  and LG Chem would have to face claims that they were negligent and failed to warn plaintiff Katrina Williams about the allegedly defective lithium-ion battery, which she bought from Vape Easy to use in her vape smoking equipment. The battery later exploded in Williams' pocket, causing her serious injury, court documents said.

In the lawsuit, Williams' attorneys alleged that the battery was only intended to be used in power tools and said that their client never received instructions on how to carry and store the product.

According to court filings, distributor Madvapes received the batteries from the distributor, LG, initially unpacking them and then shipping them in individual boxes to Vape Easy and other retailers. The company said that it did not know the batteries were intended only to be used in power tools, though there were alleged instances of battery malfunctions involving the company.

LG, meanwhile, acknowledged that there were no warning printed on the boxes in which they were shipped. All three companies moved for summary judgment to dismiss the complaint.

Under New York law, firms can be subject to strict liability in cases where there is a mistake in manufacturing, an improper design or insufficient warning for the use of a product.

McDonald's ruling found that important questions remained in the case about whether the firms had misused the product and whether it was clear the battery was not intended for personal use. Testimony from LG's expert witness, likewise, did not address the danger of a malfunction when the battery is transported in a person's pocket, McDonald said.

"Even if the product had been used by Williams in a manner unintended by the manufacturer, whether such use was reasonably foreseeable is also a question for the jury," he wrote in a five-page order denying the defendants' motions.

McDonald did rule that Vape Easy could be eligible for common-law indemnification against Madvapes and LG, should Williams prevail on her claims against the retailer.

An attorney for Williams was not immediately available to comment on Friday.

Attorneys for Madvapes and LG did not return calls Friday afternoon seeking comment, and an attorney for Vape Easy declined to comment, saying he had not yet reviewed the ruling.

Williams is represented by Marc E. Freund, Thomas J. Moverman and Carmine Joseph Goncalves of Lipsig, Shapey, Manus & Moverman.

Vape Easy is represented by David Sheridan Conklin of Ahmuty, Demers & McManus.

Madvapes is represented by Jeannine Marie Davanzo of Gallo Vitucci & Klar and Alana J. Szemer of Faust, Goetz, Schenker & Blee.

LG is represented by Steven Thomas Corbin, Peter T. Shapiro, Nicholas Philip Kane Hurzeler, Rebekah Misun and Jesse Daniel Rodgers of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith.

The case is captioned Williams v. Madvapes.