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August 26, 2013

Georgians at risk from dangerous/altered tobacco and incense products

The Georgia Department of Public Health sent an email over the weekend warning of dangerous products currently on store shelves:

"The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has become aware of a dangerous, potentially lethal substance surfacing in convenience stores and smoke shops. When ingested or inhaled this neurotoxin can render a person motionless and/or unconscious and cause severe cardiac problems. In the last 24 hours, at least eight patients in Southeast Ga. have been hospitalized; some patients have been admitted to intensive care and are on life support. Two patients have been intubated.

The substance is marketed as "herbal incense," bath salts, or "roll-your-own" tobacco - similar to what public health and law enforcement have seen before containing cannabinoid receptor agonists (THC homologs), but there are now indications the chemicals or ingredients have been altered.

Photo of Incense.jpg

First responders have reported unusual strength, agitation and combativeness in some persons followed by sudden hypokalemia, flaccid paralysis, severe hyporeflexia and unconsciousness. Symptoms may present almost immediately after ingestion or inhalation, or may be delayed as users ingest more of the product. Mild to moderate intoxication can result in alterations in mood and perception, reddened conjunctiva, nausea, vomiting, xerostomia, weakness, cardiac abnormalities, hypertension, disorientation and an increase in pulse rate, similar to marijuana (THC).

DPH is working closely with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency to collect these products and remove them from store shelves. Samples of the product have arrived at a secure laboratory and testing to identify the toxins is underway. At this time, lab tests are continuing and the composition of the product is unknown. Clinicians are advised to treat symptomatically as no specific treatment has been identified.

Brand names include Crazy Clown and Herbal Madness Incense. The products are typically sold at convenience and tobacco stores and may display a clown or "joker face" with the character's tongue out and/or "5X" in product labeling."

Georgia has a Products Liability statute that protects consumers from dangerous or defective products. If you have been affected by these or any other products, contact an experienced Georgia Products Liability Lawyer.

October 7, 2012

Georgia Product Liability Law - Part 1: History and Burden of Proof

When a manufacturer makes a product, they must consider the risks and harms that the product could cause. They do this because if a person is injured because of a defective product, the manufacturer will have to pay for the injury.

This has not always been the case. For a very long time, the "general rule" was that a manufacturer could not be sued, even for negligence, by someone with whom he had no contract. This was called the "rule of privity," and it was most famously set forth in an 1842 case Winterbottom v. Wright. This rule existed for many decades. See this article for more information about the history of product liability.

The law and its assumptions began to change in the middle of the 20th century. Many people consider Ralph Nader the true pioneer of Product Liability. According to his bio, "The crusading attorney first made headlines in 1965 with his book Unsafe at Any Speed, a scathing indictment that lambasted the auto industry for producing unsafe vehicles. The book led to congressional hearings and a series of automobile safety laws passed in 1966. Since 1966, Nader has been responsible for: at least eight major federal consumer protection laws such as the motor vehicle safety laws, Safe Drinking Water Act; the launching of federal regulatory agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Environment Protection Agency (EPA), and Consumer Product Safety Administration; the recall of millions of defective motor vehicles; access to government through the Freedom of Information Act of 1974; and for many lives saved."

In Georgia, the following four part test must be meet for actions involving bodily injury to human beings. In any products liability case, the plaintiff has to prove: (1) that the product was defective, (2) that he or she actually was injured, (3) that that there was a connection between the product defect and the injury, and (4) that the defendant (manufacturer) was responsible for the defect. See Products Liability, Second Edition, Madden, §12.1, p. 487.

Upcoming: Part 2: Product liability - STRICT LIABILITY: O.C.G.A. §51-1-11