SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (CN) - A toddler died in a car crash caused by a man who was high on spice, the little boy's mother claims in court.
The single-car crash killed Mason Simmonds-Brito, 22 months, and his uncle, Simon Brito, 17. Wendi Brito, 19, and Michael Brito, 23, were seriously injured. The only one who escaped serious injury was the driver, 22-year-old Tanner Mengore, Mason's mother, Stacey Brito, claims in San Luis Obispo County Court.
She sued Mengore, the Paradise Smoke Shop in Cambria, and two other people: the woman who owned the SUV, and a man whose relation to the accident is not specified.
Spice, a mixture of herbs sprayed with chemicals, has been blamed for many deaths. It is generally sold as "not for human consumption," as a way to duck drug laws. It can, and has, caused hallucinations, seizures, heart problems and death, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Mongore smoked spice on Oct. 25, 2014, then got behind the wheel of the SUV with four other passengers, according to the complaint. He lost control of the vehicle, hit an embankment on Highway 1 and rolled, throwing three of the four passengers from the car, the complaint states.
Mengore has pleaded not guilty to charges of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence of a drug causing injury and child abuse.
Paradise Smoke Shop manager Mona Atoush told the San Luis Obispo Tribune in October that the spice could not have come from her store.
"The folks, they never came here, and we don't sell that stuff here," she said.
Atoush is not a party to the lawsuit.
Stacey Brito claims the store did sell Mengore the spice, that it knew that he "would not fully appreciate the actual dangers associated with the use of Spice" and failed to warn about it.
Spice is sold at head shops, gas stations and over the Internet, sometimes as "herbal incense" or "potpourri;" it is also known as K2 and other nicknames.
The warning "not for human consumption" is merely "a sham, designed to shield sellers and manufacturers from liability," Stacey Brito says. "The warning is wholly insufficient."
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, spice has become the second most frequently used illegal drug among high school seniors, second only to marijuana.
In 2011, there were 28,531 emergency room visits attributed to synthetic cannabinoids, according the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The federal government has tried to combat spice by banning chemicals used to make it, but underground chemists keep a step ahead by developing new versions of chemical compounds.
Many of the chemicals have not been tested on humans or been determined safe for human consumption.
Stacey Brito seeks punitive damages for product liability and wrongful death.
She is represented by Don Ernst.
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