Stephanie Galdarisi Thomas, 25, was severely burned when an e-cigarette exploded in her lap while she was driving.
The Tacoma woman was vaping as she walked to her van in Puyallup in April 2018. When she got in the driver's seat, she set the vape pen down on her lap. As she started to back up, she says the device exploded. Her fiance was in the passenger seat and put the vehicle in park and ran around to pull Thomas out of the car. They had a friend's daughter in the back of the van.
"It was like a firecracker," said Thomas. "It was fire on me, just to find out it was my vape."
Thomas says the burning device went down her legs and landed on the floorboards. She was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup and transferred to the burn unit at Harborview Medical Center. She was hospitalized for more than two weeks and underwent painful procedures. She says she is scarred and will still need skin grafts in the future.
She's suing the manufacturer of the device and the stores where she bought the vape, supplies and batteries.
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"It can happen anytime, at any moment. It affected me long-term. Just take it more seriously," pleaded Thomas through tears Wednesday." "Because even looking at a vape, I can't even enjoy the Fourth of July because of the fireworks, the noises, the sound."
"She simply put her vape down on her lap, and it turned into a bomb," said her attorney, Jerry Baker. "She's done nothing wrong here. She was using the device exactly as she was supposed to."
Baker says he sent the exploded device and lithium-ion battery to an engineer to try to determine the manufacturer of the battery. The lawsuit names Samsung but has as a catch-all "Doe" Corporations, Manufacturer and Seller in case they find out it was made by someone else.
Vapor Flavors in Tacoma is named in the lawsuit filed by Thomas. The company's attorney, Mark Kimball, told KIRO-7:
"The one thing I can say is there is a major question about whether or not the subject battery was even purchased at my client's store. We are attempting to get that sorted out."
There have been many other incidents where the lithium-ion batteries in e-cigarettes have exploded.
In Owensboro, Kentucky in February 2016, a device exploded in a man's pocket inside a convenience store. The incident was caught on camera.
In May 2018, a man was killed in a house fire in St. Petersburg, Florida, that investigators say was sparked by a lithium-ion battery that exploded in a vape pen.
Thomas says she is suing to warn other e-cigarette users and to try to get manufacturers to warn of the risks.
"It is fire, it is skin coming off, it is so burning you barely breathe," said Thomas.
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