In 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.