Rechargeable lithium ion batteries are increasingly being used to power e-cigarette devices. While they can be effective to accomplish such a purpose, the batteries can pose a dangerous, even deadly, hazard. Most consumers are unaware of the dastardly conduct that underlies the batteries they put into their devices or carry in their pockets.
The battery that dominates the vaping market is the model 18650. Generally, this type of battery is manufactured by companies that we are familiar with, including LG, Panasonic, Samsung, and Sony. What can happen next, however, is something we are less familiar with, a concept known as “rewrapping.” If you have purchased a lithium ion battery and it is not one of the brands listed above, it is probably a rewrap.
Here’s how it works:
Because the battery manufacturing process is so expensive and complicated, the industry is made up by relatively few companies (for good reason), which include those entities listed above. LG, Samsung, Panasonic, or Sony manufactured 18650 batteries are graded based on overall quality. Those batteries deserving “A” status represent the top quality and are sold for placement in select industries, most commonly for power tools. By contrast, the batteries receiving “B” and “C” grades are lesser quality. This is where the “rewrap” companies enter the picture. These companies purchase lower grade batteries at 10-20 cents per battery with the intent of selling the battery to distributors for $6 to $10 per battery. Before selling, of course, the original battery (e.g. Sony) is rewrapped with a new label or logo. The buyer is unaware that he is buying a lower quality battery.
In addition to rewrapping the battery with a new sleeve or coating, third-party companies are known for overrating the “amp” and “mAh” rating to attract consumer’s attention. These ratings are commonly used to measure or describe the energy charge a battery will hold and how long it will last before it needs to be recharged. Because there is no regulatory authority for this industry, companies get away with mispresenting the characteristics of the battery. Once sold, an unsuspecting consumer uses the battery under conditions for which it was neither designed nor intended, and consequently, the battery explodes or catches fire.
Who is Responsible?
Under most states’ product liability laws, any entity or party within the “chain of distribution” may be held liable for injuries or death resulting from the sale of a defective product. Within this framework, not only is the manufacturer of the product responsible, but so too are designers, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers. Hiring an experienced product liability attorney is crucial as identifying all the parties in the chain of distribution can be complex and burdensome. There are also laws that protect certain retailers from product liability.
In battery cases, the company that stands in the shoes of the manufacturer, or the so-called “rewrapper”, is often times located in a foreign country. This complicates “service of process” and can make it very difficult to compel the foreign party to a court within the United States. Service of process is the legal term for providing the required notice of a legal action to another party.
With that in mind, it is more practical to bring a lawsuit against the retailer and/or distributor, often times both, because they are typically located within the United States, and are thus subject to the jurisdiction of our state and federal courts. A court must have jurisdiction, or the official power, over a party before it can make legal decisions affecting the rights of a particular party.
In cases where there is inadequate insurance coverage held by the retailer or distributor to fully compensate an injured person, attorneys should discuss with their clients the risks and benefits of tracking down the foreign party.
Do your research before buying.
Understanding and acknowledging that battery “rewrapping” does commonly occur is the first step in preventing injury to yourself and others. By overrating specifications and promising a superior battery, third-party companies attempt to lure consumers into purchasing a product that is not fit for the intended use.
Be on the lookout for deceptive marketing and advertising when purchasing e-cig or vaping devices. When making a purchase, first confirm that the batteries are manufactured by one of the following companies: LG, Samsung, Panasonic, or Sony. The highest rated batteries manufactured by these companies, and those you should feel safest purchasing, include the Sony VTC5A, Samsung 20S, Sony VTC6, and the LG HG2.
Model 18650 batteries sold under any other brand or trade name should be viewed with great skepticism. Pay close attention to the writings and representations on the product or packaging. If a battery purports to provide more than 30 amps, it is likely a rewrap. Batteries with a true, continuous amp rating over 30A do not exist.
Contact Us if You Have Questions or Need Help
Unfortunately, our attorneys have seen first-hand with clients how rewrapped batteries explode and cause serious injury. If you have been injured from a battery explosion, give us a call to see if you are entitled to financial compensation.