As Colorado wrongful death attorneys, we’ve seen too many young lives cut short due to the negligence and greed of others. Criminal penalties can often lag behind when it comes to delivering justice to the bereaved families of those young victims ― and so it can be up to the civil courts to hold the responsible parties accountable.

Such is the case in the recent filing of a wrongful death suit against the owners of a Colorado Springs convenience store that sold synthetic marijuana ― a substance banned months earlier by both federal and state law ― to 19-year-old Nicholas Colbert, who died after smoking it.

The case is believed to be the first wrongful death suit related to synthetic marijuana. Legal issues surrounding the September 2011 death include:

  • The substance was labeled as incense under the brand name Mr. Smiley, and was marked Not for human consumption.
  • Kwik Stop employees Alex Lee and Sung Soo Lee reportedly instructed buyers to use the substance by smoking it or dissolving it in orange juice.
  • The product was manufactured in China, so any manufacturer liability will likely stop with the distributor, Kwik Stop.

Drug-related deaths are always tragic, but the fact that synthetic marijuana was sold ― and continues to be sold ― at neighborhood stores makes it especially appalling. In fact, Colorado public health authorities are investigating a recent rash of cases reported in metro Denver emergency rooms. About 75 patients have exhibited symptoms of agitation, confusion, violence and paranoia after using synthetic marijuana sold under brand names including StrawberrySpiceBlack Mamba and Smoke. Three more deaths may also be related to the drug.

Meanwhile, Nicholas Colbert’s mother, Stephane, explained her reasons for bringing the lawsuit. “There’s got to be a way to get rid of this,” she told a KKTV reporter. “They took a young man’s life. They took my child.”

Nothing can bring back a loved one killed because of the negligence of someone else ― but a wrongful death attorney can offer guidance on punishing those responsible through the civil courts.