Consumer Law

Former Law Student Sues Head Shops for Selling Him Nitrous Oxide


A former California law student who suffered a spinal cord injury he attributes to nitrous oxide has sued three head shops that sold him the substance.

Jason Starn was a Modesto school teacher and student at the Humphreys College Laurence Drivon School of Law when he began buying the dental anesthetic commonly known as laughing gas, the Sacramento Bee reports. The nitrous oxide is sold by the brand name Whip-It and is marketed to whip cream in cappuccino machines.

After two months of steady use of the nitrous oxide, Starn said his “brain kind of froze” and he went numb from the waist down, the story recounts. Starn’s lawyer, Deborah Barron, told the Bee that Starn had suffered a seizure because the drug depletes Vitamin B-12 from the blood. While the numbness subsided after a couple months, Starn still uses a walker because of degeneration to his spinal cord.

Starn’s suit filed on June 25 in Sacramento superior court contends the cans are mislabeled in violation of the Business and Profession Code. Barron said her client decided to sue because he wanted to help others. “At first, he felt a little embarrassed about it all,” Barron told the newspaper. “And then he said, ‘You know what? I’ve got to tell my story. I’ve got to get this out to everybody. There’s people being injured by this.’ …

“He said, ‘I want to tell the story, and I want to sue, not just for my own injuries, but on behalf of all those who have been injured or could be injured.’ ”

The smoke shops contend that any injuries were the result of Starn’s own negligence, and he assumed the risk of misusing the product.

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