A Buckeye man was left with severe burns on his right leg after an e-cigarette in his pocket suddenly caught fire, according to his attorneys.
On Monday, 49-year-old Scott Kimmel stopped at a Wendy's location in Scottsdale. As he walked across the parking lot, Kimmel looked down to see flames shooting out of the pocket of his shorts, according to his account relayed by his wife, Lori, to Phoenix New Times.
Initially, Kimmel considered tearing his shorts off as fast as possible, before remembering that he was in public, she recalled.
"I don't know exactly how he put out the fire," Lori Kimmel said. "I just know I've seen [his leg] charred red and black and white."
The brand of e-cigarette was made by KangerTech, an attorney for Kimmel said. The company is based in the city of Shenzen, China, according to its website.
Attorney Dane Wood of the Brewer Law Firm, a Phoenix personal injury firm, is representing Kimmel and his wife.
Wood said that a lawsuit against the e-cigarette manufacturer is "likely." They may seek compensatory damages for Kimmel's medical expenses and time spent in the hospital when he has been unable to work, not to mention his general pain and suffering.
"He's in extreme pain, and [that] will continue," Wood said.
Wood pointed out the small, black e-cigarette Kimmel was carrying, which is now charred and ruined. Photos of Kimmel's leg provided by his attorneys show ugly patches of sagging, burned skin along his upper thigh and calf.
Kimmel went to the emergency room around 3 a.m. on Tuesday, his wife said. After returning from Wendy's, he initially tried to ignore the pain and avoided telling his wife about the e-cigarette explosion.
"He said he didn't want to worry me about it," Lori Kimmel said.
By the time she took him to the hospital, the skin was peeling and gruesome. On a pain scale, Kimmel listed his discomfort as a 10 out of 10.
Approximately 38 percent of the skin on his leg was burned, the doctors told him. Since Tuesday, Kimmel has stayed in a hospital that has the ability to handle burns, his wife said. Doctors performed surgery on his leg using pig skin as a graft to treat his burns.
Kimmel was initially told he would stay in the hospital for around 10 days, but he may be able to return home soon. It's unclear whether a lingering infection on the leg will require Kimmel to undergo another operation, his wife said.
Whether Kimmel's family will sue the e-cigarette manufacturer depends on the outcome of another case, Wood said. His firm is already suing KangerTech on behalf of another alleged victim of an e-cigarette explosion.
If the manufacturer broaches the subject of a resolution to Johnson's lawsuit, Kimmel might not need to file a lawsuit. "It kind of depends on how things progress," Wood said.
The other client, Tyrell Johnson, 22, was also badly burned when an e-cigarette caught fire in his pocket in nearly the same manner, according to Wood. The firm is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for Johnson in the lawsuit filed in June in Maricopa County Superior Court.
A request for comment sent to an email address listed on KangerTech's website was not immediately returned.
As the popularity of e-cigarettes and vape pens has increased in recent years, there have been reports of the devices exploding or lighting on fire in pockets without warning.
On the same day that Kimmel was burned, a surveillance camera in an Anaheim television store captured the moment an e-cigarette in a customer's pocket exploded, shooting sparks through the man's pants and burning his leg.
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Kimmel has been smoking e-cigarettes for a couple years, his wife said. He started using e-cigarettes as an alternative in order to kick a cigarette habit.
The e-cigarettes were also cheaper than smoking, she said, but they've proven tough to quit. "It's very addictive because they buy all kinds of flavors – you, know Captain Crunch and all these different things," Lori said.
Kimmel always swore that each hit of the e-cigarette would be his last, she said.
"I would've wanted him to stop before all this happened," she said.