E-cigarette battery explodes in Pierce County man’s pocket. Now he’s suing

A Pierce County man alleges in a lawsuit tht this battery for an e-cigarette exploded in his pocket and left him with second-degree burns.
A Pierce County man alleges in a lawsuit tht this battery for an e-cigarette exploded in his pocket and left him with second-degree burns. Pierce County Superior Court documents

The battery for the e-cigarette a Pierce County man bought to help him quit smoking exploded in his pocket and left him with second-degree burns, he alleges in a lawsuit.

Nathan Holdener filed the suit July 28 in Pierce County Superior Court and it describes how the battery burst into flames last year.

The complaint is against the “manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, and retailers of the electronic cigarette and related parts.”

So far, the only company specifically named is Green Lake Inc., which does business as the EZ Tobacco Plus BL shop in Bonney Lake.

The other businesses involved will be listed as “Does 1-100” until Holdener and his attorneys determine their actual names.

Court records did not list an attorney for the Bonney Lake shop, and no one answered The News Tribune’s attempts to call the number listed for the business.

Holdener seeks unspecified damages for his injuries.

According to the suit:

Holdener, who is in his 30s, bought a MXJO battery from the shop in early 2016. It powered e-cigarettes, which are used to inhale nicotine vapor as an alternative to traditional smoking.

He had the battery in his right front pocket July 27, 2016, when he was walking between a work shop on his property and his house.

As he bent over to pick something up, the battery suddenly shot flames and set him ablaze.

“Nathan was finally able to remove his pants, and the battery fizzled out shortly afterwards,” the complaint reads. “When he looked down at his right thigh, he was in disbelief — his right thigh was charred black. Flaps of skin hung down from his upper thigh and calf.”

Local emergency room physicians sent Holdener to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he was treated for the second-degree burns and discharged a few days later. He still has scarring.

Holdener argues that the lithium ion batteries used in e-cigarettes have an inherent risk of exploding, and that they can be dangerous when used with the heating elements in the devices.

The lack of regulation in the industry is a problem, he says.

“Currently, manufacturers, distributors, and sellers are not required to spend any money on testing or to otherwise ensure the safety of e-cigarette products,” the suit reads.

One of Holdener’s attorneys, Liz McLafferty with the Seattle Law Offices of James Rogers, thinks her firm has eight cases of similar explosions.

“It’s happening all the time,” she said, “not just in Washington, but throughout the nation.”

A California-based lawfirm believed to be the first to take such an e-cigarette case to trial is helping with Holdener’s case, she said.

That firm, Bentley & More LLP, won a $1.9 million award for a woman hurt when an e-cigarette plugged into a car charger exploded.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell