A judge has ruled that the mother of a toddler who was killed in a car accident that police say was caused by a driver high on the synthetic drug “spice” can pursue punitive damages against the smoke shop that sold him the product.
The mother of the toddler who was killed, Stacy Brito, is now able to move forward with her lawsuit against Cambria’s Paradise Smoke Shop for punitive damages much in the same way that bars and other establishments that serve alcohol are held accountable under Dram Shop Laws.
However, legal representatives for the smoke shop say blame rests solely on the driver and the companies that manufactured the drug. The synthetic drug, which is a mixture of herbs and spices is sprayed with a chemical that is similar to the THC which is the active constituent within marijuana that gives users a high.
The California Highway Patrol filed an investigation report that stated Tanner Noah Mengore, 23, had smoked Spice shortly before driving an SUV carrying four passengers at a high rate of speed on Highway 1 near Cayucos in October of 2014. Mengore lost control of the vehicle striking an embankment causing the SUV to become airborne before it rolled repeatedly.
Three of the four passengers inside the SUV were ejected from the thrown from the vehicle. Mason Simmonds-Gibson, 22 months, and Simon Brito, 17, were killed in the accident, while Wendi Brito, 20, who was baby-sitting the toddler, and Michael Brito, 24, suffered major injuries.
Brito, Mason’s mother, initiated her lawsuit against Paradise Smoke Shop, Mengore and the owner of the SUV, Andres Simmonds-Gibson, who was the toddler’s father.
Simmonds-Gibson also later filed a suit against the smoke shop.
In 2011 California criminalized the sale and distribution of synthetic marijuana. Lawsuits brought against smoke shops that sell the synthetic drugs claim that manufacturers and shop owners as well are attempting to skirt the law knowing full well what effects the products produce in those who consume them.
Attorneys for defendants in such cases point out a warning printed on the Spice package that says, , “Not for human consumption,” should serve as an adequate warning to buyers not to consume the product, so it removes such shops from any liability.
A cross complaint has been filed against the manufacturers of Spice, JK Wholesale Inc. and J2M Wholesale Inc. Both companies deny any liability to the allegations.
Mengore has pleaded not guilty to four felonies. The charges include two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and other related charges.
Nothing in the world is more tragic than to lose the life of a child as the result of an accident. It seems unthinkable that anyone would place the lives of others at risk by getting behind the wheel under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If you or a loved one have been injured or has been tragically killed in an accident of any kind, please give our offices a call. We understand the difficulties that families can face after an accident, and we want to help.
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