Law Student Sues Head Shops For Selling Him “Whip It” Cannisters

easywhip_2236_160568In California, Jason Starn has filed a lawsuit that could be a challenge before a jury. Starn would purchase nitrous oxide canisters, or Whip its, from a local head shop in Modesto. He was regularly using the “laughing gas” when he lost feeling below his rib cage. The numbness wore off eventually but he suffered a degeneration of his spinal cord related to his abuse of nitrous oxide. He now uses a walker and has sued three stores that sold him the gas. Starn, 35, was a schoolteacher in Modesto and a student attending the Humphreys College Laurence Drivon School of Law

Starn admits that he bought dozens of canisters from stores like Smoke Island, but not insists that stores should not have sold the gas to him. However, these canisters are also used by restaurants and others to whip creams. Yet, they are sold in head shops for obviously non-culinary purposes. The Plaintiffs’ lawyers are seeking purchase records to show such a pattern.

Starn used the product for over the next two months despite that fact that nitrous oxide depletes vitamin B-12 from the blood, which can lead to spinal cord problems. However, the dangers of such use is detailed on the Internet — raising the question of his own negligence and assumption of the risk. Moreover, the product is lawful to sell and is used by cafes, restaurants, and a variety of other businesses.

The question is whether head shops should be liable for the foreseeable misuse of a product of this kind. What do you think?

Starn is asking for an unspecified amount in general and punitive damages.

Source: SacBee

55 thoughts on “Law Student Sues Head Shops For Selling Him “Whip It” Cannisters

  1. Mespo,
    Thanks for including the california penal code earlier. I have not seen the word Stupification for a long time, even though I was in that condition way too many times in college!
    It would be interesting to see how far this action gets and if there is any comparitive negligence applied to the head shop.

  2. i just spent the last hour watching scenes from airplane and naked gun.

    better than watching movies about gladiators.

  3. I saw this on the news. The story included an interview with this moron. With all due respect (which after seeing and listening to this guy = .0001%), his theory of recovery does not make sense.

    Plaintiff’s Case:

    1) Head shops are NOT selling nitrous for cooking, they are selling cartridges for customers to ingest and get high.

    2) Buying for use as the retailer intended (to get high), like most products plaintiff contends where a hazard is evident and foreseeable, the seller has a duty to warn purchasers (here that inhaling nitrous oxide could lead to physical and mental injury. Plaintiff alleges the smoke shops are liable for damages for failing to warn him about the harm.


    – I see this case getting kicked out on a demurrer — with prejudice, meaning the complaint cannot be “fixed” and refiled. (A demurrer is usually filed at the beginning of a case, in response to a served complaint. To demur challenges the legal sufficiency of the filed complaint. In plain speaking a defendant is saying “I have read the complaint and say ‘so what’ because plaintiff has not plead a valid claim.”)

    – The demurrer is properly sustained because in California POSSESSION of nitrous oxide for recreational use or abuse is prohibited and qualifies as a misdemeanor.

    – IMO it is a legal impossibility to plead a defendant liable for failing to warn a plaintiff about the consequences that may flow from plaintiff’s CRIMINAL conduct, or damages suffered from his commission of a crime.

    Bottom line:

    Regardless of the sellers’ intent or actions, the plaintiff cannot hold the smoke shops liable for damages that flow from his independent criminal POSSESSION of nitrous oxide.

    Note: “Possession” is an operative word in this California Penal Code section. It does NOT matter HOW plaintiff got the nitrous oxide cartridges. That he possesses them with an intent for illegal use, that’s the crime. Yes, intent in this regard is normally difficult to prove, but in the Complaint this moron admitted to the elements of the crime. LOL.

  4. WH,

    Please explain…. Do you drive a safer car…. Eat for the most part safer food… Live in a house that isn’t falling down when you closed the door… Please explain…. How lawyers are killing the country…..

    How about…. Unscrupulous business people are killing the country…. You wanna hear something funny…. A place close to where I live there is oil and gas….. It’s a small community…. But very rich people that make a lot of money off of the oil and gas business…. Guess what….. Thy don’t want drilling in there neighborhood….. I wonder why……

  5. It is called “whip-it!” Lower case first letters and an exclamation point. If it was called “snort-it!” then I would agree that it was sold for snorting and not whipping. One whips cream to make it stand up on top of the pumpkin pie. The dumb teacher, law student, schmucko, bought it from a head shop to snort it. He went in there to buy legal things that one can abuse to get high. Can we sell him some mercury? I dont oppose people going to Walmart and buying cigarettes right next to the drug department. “Winston tastes good. like a cigarette should” according to Walter Cronkite back in the early 60’s. In his Memoirs he makes a joke of getting chastized for correcting the grammar on the air when he interposeed “as a cigarette should” for the lame phrase handed to him by his bosess paid by the tobacco company to do the ad during the broadcast. So millions of kids get the message that its ok to smoke. Those that did and those that survived to this day can chimine in here and comment on the “whip-it” snorters of the world. If the head shop can be sued then Walmart should be sued and depleted of their resources. Walmart is intentionally selling a product for its intended use when the world knows that the product gives you cancer, heart disease or emphysema (The Hat Trick) when used in its intended use. So, went in dumb, come out dumb too in that num nut named law school in California should sue Walmart as well because num nut is probably a smoker. He is probably also a former pincipal. You know the old saw: Those who can, do. Those who cant, teach. Those who cant teach, teach teachers.

  6. About two years ago, I decided I wanted to make my own whipped cream, as the commercial products contain sugar and other ingredients that I didn’t want. I discovered the lovely Whip It tool that makes whipped cream that looks just like Ready Whip. I found the Whip It at a restaurant supply store. When I checked out, the nice man at the cash register pulled out a box of nitrous oxide containers telling me that I would need them to use the Whip It. I hadn’t known that before and thought it was curious that he kept them hidden under his counter instead of on the shelf with the Whip It, but I soon lost interest in the question. I went back several times to restock. One of the primary reasons I used the home made delicacy was for my coffee. I just loved whipped cream in my coffee. Well, over the course of about a year, it seems that the enchanting whipped cream was making me put on a few pounds. I closed up shop and have worked my way down to unwhipped half-and-half. Not significantly better for my waistline but much better for my pocket book. The nitrous oxide canisters are expensive.

    I’m wondering if I should sue the Restaurant Supply store or where I eventually ended up buying my canisters. I suppose it could be argued that I knew whipped cream has a high fat content prior to my experiment. However, I’d like to think that after losing the feeling in my rib cage that I would reconsider using the canisters for the other activity.

    As an epilogue, I have a huge amount of the canisters left over. I’m concerned that in the event that I croak before I can dispose of them properly, my family will spend quite a bit of effort pondering the question of why I would have these in my pantry. Oh, well, a girl has to have a few secrets.

  7. Kathy…

    I would toss those canisters immediately, if not sooner, instantly, as if by magic. Unless you don’t mind your legacy being a local news story:

    “DEA investigators allowed us to ride-along on a local bust of a suspected nitrous oxide dealer, a woman named Kathy T. The DEA said where the suspect went wrong is using the product too.

    Authorities raided Kathy T’s condo last night. The DEA posed in Kathy T’s kitchen, next to a cabinet containing a significantly large cache of neatly stacked unspent nitrous oxide canisters. The DEA said dealing is suspected in that there were two canisters per baggie.

    Being led away in handcuffs a portly Miss T screamed something about whip cream in her coffee is a delicacy. The DEA told us that was a typical cover story, and nitrous dealers are known to hide canisters in the kitchen. The DEA said the smart ones keep a Whip It! tool next to the canisters.

    Joe Ratyouout, a local restaurant supply manager, said he became suspicious of Kathy T because in his words “I get twos kinds of people in heres, people who are in the business, and those buying lots of nitrous oxide canisters. Asked why he sold the canisters to Kathy T, Mr. Ratyouout said ‘She seemed like such a nice girl.’

    Kathy T’s mother concurred: ‘She is a good girl, I don’t know where we went wrong. In high school she worked as a desserts maker at Sizzler. She would come home talking on her cell phone about how she can’t resist the siren song of the silver master. I can only hope the Judge has mercy on her soul.'”

  8. Michael, Thanks for making my day. You might have steered away from the “portly” reference. I guess that’s what I get for hoarding whipped cream paraphernalia.

  9. To all of you ignorant people out there that actually believe that these “Gray Area Headshops” aren’t aware and know perfectly well that the only reason people buy nitrous oxide, Whip-Its, (which btw is only one brand name of many from Europe. happens to be the most popular is all.) from them is pure and simple…to get high or achieve an altered state. Tell me then if these “headshop” owners only sell nitrous for the purpose of making whipped cream, which is exactly what they all say, then why is it that they don’t sell anything whatsoever to make whipped cream huh? Oh, but wait folks it gets better. I know for a fact that the only thing that they do sell along with the nitrous chargers are devices called “crackers” which serve only one purpose and that is to crack the charger. And just as you are on your way out of the shop guess wha they do in my hometown? They ask you in a real concerning voice, “Hey you sure you got a balloon? Here just take one on the house.” Normally a balloon by itself means nothing. And the same with the cracker, which btw literally has but one purpose, however when you combine all three items: 1. The nitrous chargers. 2. The cracker and finally, and in my opinion the smoking gun number 3. the Balloon/s. Now I’am not a lawyer but have worked at a headshop and believe me they not only know that people are buying them solely on getting high but when they also push the other paraphrenalia which is needed to do them how can you people honestly say that the retailers have no liability at all? Yes it is true that man was acting on his own and nobody made him do the nitrous. But what I don’t think that some of you people get is that how serious and super popular these things are. They sell like hot-cakes and owners aren’t stupid. Now I wonder if that man who is suing these shops would’ve still done it if there was a warning on the box saying: This product has been linked to spinal cord disease. The thing is this is a totally unique case. Because unlike beer and cigs this stuff has no business being sold especially when you consider that it’s the new thing that the “cool kids” do and how many more people must get paralyzed before they are outlawed. And if you still think these headshops bear no blame the U.S. Govt. thinks otherwise. Besides the state of N.Y. banning them; now the Feds are starting to raid shops selling this poison in southern cali. Please respond because I would love to hear it.

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