Queens Woman Says She Was Burned by Exploding E-Cigarette Battery

A Queens woman says she was badly burned when an electronic cigarette battery exploded in her jeans pocket while she was parking her car. 

Katrina Williams of Richmond Hill says she had just parked on April 7 when the lithium ion battery she was carrying exploded so forcefully it ripped the skin off her knee and shredded her jeans. The battery also got stuck in the dashboard of her car.

"It was like a firecracker launched into my dashboard," she said Tuesday.

"I was in shock, like, I didn't suspect anything would happen, I didn't even know what was happening, everything happened so fast," she said. 

Williams was taken to Jamaica Hospital, where she was treated for third-degree burns. Now burned, bruised and traumatized, Williams walks with a cane with much of her right leg bandaged and is scheduled to undergo surgery this week for the skin on her leg, she said. 

She says she plans to sue the battery manufacturer and the shop where she bought it, the Vapeasy shop on Canal Street. 

"You go into a store, you're not dealing with the manufacturer, you're dealing with the retailer," said her lawyer, Marc Freund. "They have a responsibility for public's safety." 

Freund said Williams had been expecting it would be a safe product, "something that's going to prolong her health." 

The battery manufacturer said in a statement to NBC 4 New York it does not supply or sell any loose batteries directly to customers and that with the limited information it received on the battery model, it could not verify the battery was manufactured by them. 

Pierre Nguyen, the owner of Vapeasy said in a statement that he knows he had told Williams not to put batteries in her pocket and that the company tells customers to only put batteries in their devices, their chargers or approved battery cases. 

Nguyen said that he believed that Williams' own negligence caused the battery to explode, because she put the loose battery in her pockets with some other item that caused it to "vent." He also alleged that the woman claimed that her pocket was empty to the Daily News, which first reported the story.

"She lied about her pocket being empty and it was her negligence that caused her injury," he said.

With the increasing popularity of electronic cigarettes have come reports of exploding e-cigarette batteries. The U.S. Fire Administration finds 25 fires or explosions involving vaporizer batteries between 2009 and 2014, though the report is over a year old and is the only statistic available on e-cigarette battery explosions. 

The Fire Administration estimated more than 2.5 million Americans used e-cigarettes in 2014. 

NBC News which notes the lithium-ion batteries used to power e-cigarette vaporizers are small and powerful. When they fail, the results can be disastrous.

Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies, Inc., told NBC News he is "troubled" that no federal agency is regulating e-cigarettes.

"We're seeing a flood of these low-cost, low-quality devices that are hurting people and we're dealing with safety as an afterthought," Kane said. "We need tough standards that require good design and manufacturing practices to ensure these devices are produced safely."

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