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Wrongful Death Case A First For California’s Cannabis Industry

Were Unsafe Edibles At Fault For Young Woman’s Death?

The new legal requirements for safe production of cannabis edibles will come to the fore in a wrongful death case filed in California. The lawsuit was filed on Oct. 20 in California state court. It names as defendants the consumables holding company Vertical Bliss and several related businesses and their representatives. It calls for punitive damages and a jury trial.

The suit alleges that the young woman, Le’Sharia Bre’aun Steele, died after consuming a cannabis gummy, a fruit candy infused with cannabis products produced by Kushy Punch, which is owned by Vertical Bliss. The suit, brought by her parents, alleges that the gummy was directly responsible for her death. This is one of the first lawsuits in California to use new laws surrounding cannabis processing and purity requirements as a basis for a wrongful death lawsuit.

With the legalization of recreational marijuana use, wrongful death and liability coverage are expanding. Understanding how these lawsuits work can help you understand your rights and responsibilities if you’ve lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence.

What Is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death is a civil claim that can be filed after someone’s death by their surviving family. These claims allow for the family of the deceased to receive financial compensation for the loss of their loved one’s support and companionship. Claims can be filed against the deceased’s employer, against product manufacturers, against premises owners, or anyone else whose negligence or actions led to the death.

In California, only certain people have standing to file wrongful death suits. These people include the deceased person’s:

  • Spouse or domestic partner
  • Children or stepchildren,
  • Grandchildren,
  • Other heirs, or
  • Parents.

These are the people who are considered to benefit most from an individual’s support, financially or emotionally. As a result, they are also the people most likely to suffer after that person’s death.

Proving Wrongful Death

To prove wrongful death, you must show the following:

  • A person has verifiably died;
  • This death was caused by the defendant’s defective product, negligence, or intent to cause harm;
  • The deceased’s surviving family members will suffer a financial loss because of the death;
  • A personal representative for the deceased person’s estate has been appointed.

These four criteria must all be met for a defendant to be found liable for the death.

Negligence or malicious intent are often the most demanding criteria to prove. California is a strict liability state, however, so proving that a business or manufacturer is liable for a death or injury is more straightforward than in other places

Instead of needing to prove that a company was actively negligent, it’s enough to show that the defendant manufactured, distributed, or sold a product that led to the death. In the case of the California cannabis gummy wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiffs will only need to prove that the gummy was the cause of death, not that the company was negligent.

Common causes of wrongful death lawsuits include:

  • Deaths due to defective products.
  • Deaths caused by unsafe premises.
  • Deaths that occur during work.
  • Deaths that are caused by someone else’s reckless actions.

Potential Damages from Wrongful Death Cases

If the defendant is found liable in a wrongful death case, they may be ordered to pay damages. These damages are intended to cover the financial burdens that the death caused the deceased person’s family. Potential damages can include:

  • Medical bills accrued before the death,
  • Costs of the funeral and burial,
  • Mental, physical, and emotional suffering of the deceased and their loved ones, and
  • Lost wages and financial support from the deceased.

These damages help support the surviving family. Damages for medical and funeral costs help relieve the financial burden of the death itself, while damages for pain, suffering, and lost wages help support the family in the future without their loved one. A wrongful death case can award one, some, or all of these types of damages; it depends on the case and how it’s argued.

If you’ve lost a loved one due to a defective product or any other wrongful cause, you deserve to receive financial compensation. The right legal counsel can help.

Reach out to our experienced wrongful death attorneys today to discuss your options. They can help you put together a wrongful death lawsuit and hold the responsible party accountable for your loss. Even if a criminal trial isn’t possible or did not find the defendant guilty, a wrongful death lawsuit can help you hold the responsible party liable.

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