United States: The First Of The Vape-Lung Product Liability Cases Has Been Filed

Last Updated: October 10 2019
Article by Ian A. Stewart

A product liability lawsuit has been filed in Washington state court against several manufacturers of THC vape cartridges. The case, Charles Wilcoxson v. Canna Brand Solutions LLC et al., was filed on September 23, 2019, in the Superior Court of Pierce County, Washington. The complaint alleges that the plaintiff, a 44-year-old police officer and former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces, had consumed various THC vape products between January 2018 and September 2019. He purchased several cannabis brands, including Conscious Cannabis, Rainbows Aloft, Leafwerx, MFused and Jane's Garden, all of which are named as defendants. Also included as a defendant is Canna Brand Solutions, the distributor of plaintiff's vaporizer device (called a "pen" or "battery"), which was manufactured by C-Cell, a Chinese corporation.

According to the complaint, plaintiff vaped on September 11, 2019, and woke up with severe wheezing that night. He continued to have difficulties through the weekend and on Monday morning presented at the emergency room. Plaintiff was diagnosed with lipoid pneumonia caused by vaping. A pathology report noted "numerous lipid laden macrophages" on his lungs, "reactive endobronchial cells" and disease-fighting cells called eosinophils that are seen in reactive airway disease. Plaintiff spent three days in the hospital before being discharged home and allowed to return to work on light duty with the police department. The complaint states that "since the injury, plaintiff has been unable to run, work full-time or participate in physical activities with his young daughter," and that "the full extent of the injuries caused by defendants' products is not yet known."

The complaint asserts causes of action for strict liability and negligence against the various defendants. It is alleged that the vape cartridges were not reasonably safe and were not fit for human consumption "as a result of being flooded with particles." The plaintiff similarly alleged that the vaporizer pen was defectively designed and that the distributor "knew or should have known that the product was not safe for human consumption."

It is further alleged that the defendants are jointly and severally liable for the entire damages suffered by the plaintiff due to their alleged status as successive tortfeasors. This strategy of alleging joint-and-several liability is often seen in tobacco, asbestos and other "toxic tort" litigation, where the plaintiff sues all potential defendants and attempts to shift the burden to those defendants to disprove that each is partially responsible for the injuries alleged. Here, plaintiff may be using the joint-and-several liability strategy due to the fact that establishing medical causation against any specific vape manufacturer may prove difficult in the absence of reliable scientific evidence of what is causing these illnesses.

The plaintiff's injuries appear similar to what was seen in the "popcorn lung" cases of a decade ago. Those cases were caused by diacetyl oil, an imitation "butter" used in popcorn products, which was vaporized and inhaled by people when they ate popcorn. The result was a wave of popcorn lung toxic tort litigation.

Update on Vape-Related Illnesses

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are now more than 800 confirmed or probable cases of vape-related lipoid pneumonia, with 12 deaths across 10 states. However, health officials still do not know specifically what is making people sick and no common thread has been identified. Potential contaminants are suspected, including vitamin E acetate, an unregulated synthetic thickening agent used in some illicit-market THC and CBD vape products.

The recent increase in confirmed cases has confounded officials, though some believe that more cases are being identified due to heightened public awareness and specific questioning of patients by medical professionals. Until recently, few physicians have questioned patients specifically about vape use, and many vape consumers deny THC consumption due to social stigma or fear of prosecution. Many vape consumers also distinguish vaping from smoking and deny a history of "smoking" when asked. Recent media coverage and alerts by state and county health agencies have prompted physicians to question patients specifically about vape use when confronted with acute respiratory illness without an infectious cause.

Manufacturers of state-licensed and regulated cannabis products, including THC vape products, widely support meaningful regulation that would help to prevent health problems caused by illicit and unapproved products. A sensible public health strategy devised by the federal government likely could have prevented many of these illnesses and deaths by stopping unregulated illicit-market THC vape products from getting into the hands of consumers.

Until the cause of the recent illnesses and deaths is identified, all companies that manufacture and distribute THC and CBD vape products may be exposed to some risk of litigation.

Note: This article was published in the September 30, 2019, issue of Cannabis Business Executive.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions