A man has filed a wide-ranging lawsuit in Travis County for severe skin burns he says he suffered from a defective battery used to power an electronic cigarette.
Matthew Bonestele was carrying an LG Chem battery in his right pants pocket when it suddenly exploded on April 21, 2016, the lawsuit says. He sustained third-degree burns to most of his leg as well as a loss of skin in a baseball-sized section of his upper thigh.
The lawsuit alleges that the battery was defectively designed and manufactured, and that it lacked warnings to alert users to potential dangers.
“Mr. Bonestele suffered an injury that he could never have imagined in civilian life,” his attorney, Randy Sorrels of Houston, said in a statement. “The reality is that these batteries are small sticks of dynamite and the e-cigarette industry needs to make wholesale changes to insure the safety of all those who use these batteries. Further, the danger is not just limited to the user, but also to everyone that is near the user — including those in the same house who could be injured or killed by a resulting fire.”
Bonestele is seeking more than $1 million, according to the lawsuit, which names LG Inc. as one of three defendants along with Great Vapes LLC. and Lightfire Group LLC. The lawsuit says Bonestele bought the battery from Great Vapes, an e-cigarette retailer with a store in Midlothian, which had bought it from Lightfire Group, the distributor.
Lightfire Group, of Weston, Fla., filed a response to the lawsuit, denying any wrongdoing and saying Bonestele “may have negligently handled, utilized, or transported the product at issue.”
Sorrels said he filed the lawsuit in Travis County because he originally alleged that Austin’s Vapro Supply was the distributor of the battery. But Sorrels said he now thinks Lightfire, not Vapro Supply, was the distributor. Vapro Supply was dropped from the lawsuit in February.
“The lawyers gave us assurance they didn’t sell it,” Sorrels said. “If for some reason their assurance is wrong, there’s a way to rectify that.”
Another defendant, ShenZhen battery, also was removed from the amended suit and replaced by LG.
Sorrels said Bonestele, a veteran who lives south of Fort Worth, was sitting at home when the battery erupted in his pocket.
A skin graft procedure took skin from another part of Bonestele’s body to replace the lost skin on his leg, Sorrels said. Doctors say Bonestele will always have extreme sensitivity in the affected area, according to Sorrels.