Army veteran files first vaping-related lawsuit in Washington state

Army veteran files first vaping-related lawsuit in Washington state
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A new Washington lawsuit alleges that defective vape products led to lung illness. It's the first suit of its kind filed in the state.

A new Washington state lawsuit alleges that defective vape products led to lung illness. It’s the first suit of its kind filed in the state.

The suit filed on behalf of 44-year-old Charles Wilcoxen claims he suffered from lipoid pneumonia that was caused by vape products and Everett-based distributor Canna Brand Solutions, which sold the Chinese-made vaporizer he used.

Wilcoxen, an Army veteran and Puyallup Tribal Police officer, began using a vaporizer with THC vape pods in 2018 to help with pain relief and stress. Earlier this month, he started suffering from severe wheezing and had to be hospitalized for three days.

“I was deeply gasping for air, it seemed like, because my [oxygen] levels were so low” Wilcoxen said. “Every 10 steps I would take, I’d be hunched over trying to catch my breath.”

The suit claims that Wilcoxen is physically active and was in good health prior to being injured by the allegedly defective vaporizer.

After a bronchoscopy at Saint Joseph’s Medical Center, the lawsuit said his diagnosis was lipoid pneumonia. According to Washington’s Department of Health, lipoid pneumonia happens when someone inhales oil into their lungs.

The CDC has reported some cases of lipoid pneumonia associated with vaping but since diagnosing the disease is invasive, not every patient with a vaping-related illness has the test, making it hard to determine how many of the illnesses might have been lipoid pneumonia.

More than 500 vaping-related illnesses have been reported across the U.S., including several in Washington. Seven deaths have been attributed to illnesses spurred by vaping.

“It’s the Wild West out there right now,” attorney Mark Lindquist said. “This is a severely under-regulated industry.”

“We hope this lawsuit will help make these products safer because the reality is, millions of Americans are going to consume marijuana and they ought to be able to do it safely,” Lindquist continued.

Lindquist said products should be banned until proven safe. He encouraged anyone who has suffered injuries from vaping to contact a law firm with experience in complex civil litigation as soon as possible.