Vaper sues Sony over exploding battery

Will a vaper cash in on an accident he admits was caused by his own carelessness?


A South Carolina man is suing Sony, claiming their batteries are dangerous, after an 18650 cell exploded in his pocket and burned his right leg.

The battery was being carried loose in Thomas Masters’ pocket, and he admits it may have made contact with change or keys. Such incidents are probably the most common reason for vaping battery explosions.

The lawsuit was filed in June against Sony Electronics Inc. and the Sony Corporation of America. It specifically identifies the battery as a Sony VTC5. The suit contends that the batteries were dangerous because they had no internal temperature control or protective circuitry.

The suit alleges that Sony “sold the batteries knowing that they had manufacturing defects and did not comply with safety standards.” According to Chris Moore, Masters’ attorney, Chinese distributors resell 18650 cells to American vape shops, even though Sony doesn’t sell the batteries for that purpose.

Chris Moore said that he knows of “at least a dozen” similar suits in South Carolina

But according to Moore, it’s Sony’s responsibility to know where their products ultimately are sold and how they might be misused. “If it is foreseeable to Sony that the individual cells might be taken out and used in an application like this, where it could have a potential for short circuiting, then they should take precautions,” he said.

The injury occurred in December 2016. Since then, Masters has had several surgeries and skin grafts. Masters’ attorney told the Beaufort Gazette that they haven’t decided on an exact damage figure they will ask for. Masters is a construction worker, and Moore told the paper that “It would be hard for him to go out and work on houses.”

Chris Moore said that he knows of “at least a dozen” similar suits in South Carolina, including four initiated by his law firm. Sony told the Gazette they wouldn’t comment on ongoing litigation.

Battery safety is becoming one of the biggest issues in vaping. New legislation that may be part of the 2018 federal budget would give the FDA responsibility to regulate the batteries in vaping devices.

Jim McDonald
I spend most of my time studying the regulatory, legislative and scientific challenges to vaping, advocating for our right to exist, and talking with others who do the same. Consider me a source for information, and feel free to agree or disagree with anything I say. I love good coffee and sweet Michigan cherries. My childhood hero was Gordie Howe.
  • Lord_Farquad

    God this makes me angry -_-”….

    • Dig_dug42

      It should make all responsible vapers angry…. it’s morons like this guy that will ultimately make life saving vaping products obsolete in a world where you can go out and buy a bottle of bleach, drink it, and if you survive, sue the company that produced it.

  • Disgruntled_Veteran

    Attorney Chris Moore’s attitude highlights what is wrong with America today. “If it is foreseeable to Sony that the individual cells might be taken out and used in an application like this, where it could have a potential for short circuiting, then they should take precautions,”

    Two items to ‘educate’ this attorney. First, having a loose, unprotected, and charged lithium cell carried in your pocket – – – is not using it in any application. It is simply carrying the cell improperly betting that it will not ‘bite you’. You are ALWAYS taking a chance when you do this, and a wise and knowledgeable person would NEVER attempt something so foolhardy . . .

    Second, While there are many things that Sony should be responsible for in the manufacture of their cells – – – figuring out ALL the ways people may misuse their product should not have to be one of them. I have to wonder (given what I have read about this case) if Thomas Masters goes around his home inserting his fingers into electrical outlets. Clearly, he is not an individual who cares enough about himself to stay safe by educating himself on equipment he uses.

    I have been using rechargeable lithium batteries of various sizes and chemistry for over five years now in a variety (Flashlights, Radios, Vape Mods) of devices. I have educated myself from day one, and have never had a problem – – – other than 1 cell out of over 200 would not hold a charge after 20 charge cycles. LG replaced that cell to me at no cost.

    The Sony VTC5 cell did not injure Mr. Masters. Lack of proper knowledge regarding battery safety did. Not Sony’s fault.

    Jim Clement
    1973 – 1976 USMC
    1978 – 1993 USN
    Wounded Warrior
    Honolulu, Hawaii

    • Jim McDonald

      Well said. Presumably Sony would be responsible if someone struck the battery repeatedly with a hammer too, or threw it in an oven.

      • Disgruntled_Veteran

        I’m reasonably sure Chris Moore would think so . . .

  • Johnny Smoke

    This guy does get he Moron award. Now he wants to suit Sony for being an idiot. As far as not able to be a contractor anymore I think he will be fine asking “Would you like fries with that”.

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  • cohones1974

    I am from Europe so… ONLY in ‘MURICA could this come in front of a jury to decide… (Hate all you want but it is true…)

    • Jim McDonald

      Ha, yes. However the majority of such suits never get to court. They’re designed to force the company into a financial settlement.


      When I started vaping about a year ago I bought all my stuff and all I heard about was don’t build low, building low will cause your face to blow off, etc… My local b&m is still preaching this. Well I was visiting my sister in ga and stopped by a local shop to get some advice about the rda I got for Christmas and he notices the ends of my batteries are fraying and explains to me why batteries explode and then rewraps them. It’s tears in your battery wrap or poor storage methods that cause this phenomenon known as thermal runaway. Sony is not responsible for our ignorance and now more than ever the facts I stated above are well known so just a bit of research would have saved this guy.

      • Jim McDonald

        There are multiple reasons for battery incidents, but torn wraps is certainly one of them. In this case, it was change in a pocket. What’s certain is that the problem wasn’t cause by defective batteries.

        • Taz

          Change, keys, or other metal can’t complete the circuit unless the wrap is torn and/or the insulator is missing. The top of the battery is the only place where positive and negative are close enough together to make simultaneous contact with a small metal object. So with a properly wrapped battery, there is absolutely no way that incidental contact with change or keys can cause a short – because it would have to touch the top and bottom simultaneously. Not saying that a key couldn’t cut through the wrap on the side and complete the circuit through another key on the ring that happens to be touching the top button, but I’d put money on every one of these incidents having the battery in question missing the insulator.

    • The BlackPit

      And only in Europa can a murderer/terrorist kill innocent citizens and get a “slap on the wrist” sentence from some sorry excuse for a judge. Hate all YOU want, but it’s true. Not to mention the fact that the last time I was in England, I had to navigate around all the homeless sleeping in the streets!

      • Jim McDonald

        To be fair, The U.S. is the personal injury lawsuit capitol of the world.

  • Chris Larizza

    No the dam problem wasn’t torn wrapping or anything like that.. believe me..I had one explode in my pocket as well… And it wasn’t fun… The problem was that him, like me was careless with the lithium battery and didn’t care for it right, or have it stored right ..cause when the one exploded in my pocket I to had keys and possibley some change in that pocket as well.. I mean I’m no scientist. Or electrician… But I’m not a dumbass to know when it exploded it somehow in my pocket got connected with the keys. And being positive…negative.. And throwing some connective metal into the mix…it somehow made a bad connection.. Got to hot and it eventually will explode.. Kinda like a car battery… Would you hook it up backwards? No? Why?… Cause it’s not the way it’s supposed to go.out And you’ll fry something inevitably…
    I just know that’s the fastest anyone’s ever gotton my pants off…. Lmao… But yea ever since then I never put more than two batteries into my pocket… And not one battery in my pocket with keys…
    But did I make a claim. Trying to sue someone.. looking for a quick payday. Why?
    Cause there ain’t no time for pussy shit around here….smh…. Wipe it off..wrap it up. And go on about your day…