Herrmann Law Group files first vaping lawsuit in Washington

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The Herrmann Law Group has filed a lawsuit in Pierce County Superior Court against the manufacturers of vape pods and a vaporizer used to consume THC. The suit alleges defects in the products caused lung injuries to Charles Wilcoxen.

Wilcoxen, a police officer, began using a personal vaporizer with THC vape pods in early 2018. When off duty, he used legal marijuana for pain relief, stress relief, and sleep. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana and contains medicinal and psychoactive elements.

On Sept. 11, Wilcoxen began severely wheezing from the vaping. The next morning, he had difficulty breathing. His wife took him to the Kaiser Permanente Emergency Room. After a CT scan, he was transferred by ambulance to Saint Joseph Medical Center where he spent three days. The suit alleges that medical evidence indicated he suffered from “lipoid pneumonia” caused by vaping. 

Mark Lindquist, former Pierce County Prosecutor and now an attorney with the Herrmann Law Group, said the lawsuit has three goals: “Justice for our client, accountability for the culprits, and a safer product.”

Recently, there has been a surge of injuries reported from vaping, including lung issues, seizures, and other serious health problems. At least seven people have died. The Centers for Disease Control announced more than 500 cases of severe respiratory injuries from vaping marijuana or nicotine. Most injuries have been related to THC. 

Federal law bans the sale, use, or possession of marijuana. As a result, there is no federal regulation of marijuana products. Wilcoxen purchased his marijuana products from local stores.

“It’s a Wild West marketplace,” said Lindquist. “The FDA needs to step up. First, the products should be banned until proven safe. Second, once proven safe, the products should be regulated so they stay safe. Marijuana is as mainstream as beer and bourbon. So it should be regulated just like beer and bourbon and everything else we consume. This is a safety issue. Millions of American consumers are at risk.” 

Prior to his injury from vaping, Wilcoxen was active, fit, and healthy. He served 17 years in the United States Army, including Special Forces, before becoming a police officer.

“My hope is that manufacturers of legal vaping cartridges and devices can be held accountable for their products,” said Wilcoxen. “With proper oversight and more stringent guidelines, I believe their products will be safer.” 

Lindquist encouraged anyone who has suffered injuries from vaping to contact a law firm with experience in complex civil litigation, such as Herrmann Law Group. 

“Sooner is better,” Lindquist said. “And there is no charge for the initial consultation.”   

Herrmann Law Group is a personal injury firm with offices in Seattle and Tacoma. Established in 1950, the firm represents victims of mass disasters, defective products, automobile collisions, and other incidents causing injuries. 

Their high-profile cases include the crashes of Lion Air Flight JT 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. The firm represents more than 40 victim families from the two crashes of the Boeing 737 Max 8. 

Lindquist pointed out that the FAA grounded the Boeing 737 Max after the second crash. “When a product is unsafe, government needs to act,” he said.

Marijuana is legal in most states, but it remains illegal under federal law. Cannabis is classified as a Schedule 1 drug along with Heroin and LSD. “Ironically, by keeping marijuana illegal, the federal government makes it less safe,” said Lindquist. 

Next week, the U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the SAFE Banking Act, which would allow banks and other financial institutions do business with marijuana companies in states where it is legal. Observers consider the vote to be a step toward federal legalization of marijuana. 

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