Burned man sues mini-mart, butane suppliers for $11 million over do-it-yourself hash oil explosion
In a lawsuit that appears to be the first of its kind in the nation, a man who was burned over half of his body when he tried to make a batch of hash oil in his burned over half of his body when he tried to make a batch of hash oil in his million lawsuit faulting the store that sold him the butane necessary for his do- )
Kevin Tveisme’s lawsuit blames the importers, the distributors and the Shell mini-mart on Southeast Foster Road that sold him the butane, alleging that they failed to warn that butane vapors are highly explosive, especially in enclosed spaces such as a garage, and that other people who have tried to make hash oil with butane have been badly burned or killed.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court, is unprecedented in the U.S., said Jonah Flynn, the Atlanta attorney representing Tveisme.
But hash-oil explosions are not: The list of people who have ended up seriously hurt or dead after flash hash oil explosions been growing in recent years.
Hash oil has become popular in the past five years and contains a particularly potent concentration of THC. It can be made by using butane to extract THC from marijuana. It’s then smoked, ingested or vaporized to achieve a high.
But the production process can be quite dangerous — with butane vapors suddenly igniting from a single spark or flame in a water heater or furnace, blowing off rooftops and literally melting the skin off bodies.
The May 27, 2013, blast that injured Tveisme, who was in his late 20s, also killed his longtime friend, Joseph Westom, who was burned over 90 percent of his body.
Westom, 35, died 18 days later. Westom’s estate has not filed a wrongful death lawsuit.
Tveisme suffered burns over 50 percent of his body, most of them were full-thickness burns, also known as third-degree burns. He was in a medically induced coma for six weeks and underwent 11 surgeries. His right index finger was amputated.
His medical bills have topped $1 million. And he wasn’t able to work for 16 months after the explosion, according to his suit.
At the time, Tveisme was an Oregon medical marijuana cardholder – he said severe pain was his qualifying reason. His lawsuit states that he was legally allowed to use marijuana to make hash oil.
Oregon law prohibits people who aren’t medical marijuana cardholders from producing hash oil. That will all change sometime after January 2016, however, when the Oregon Liquor Control Commission starts accepting applications from non-cardholders to make hash oil, said commission spokesman Tom Towslee.
In May 2014, about a year after the explosion, Tveisme reluctantly spoke to The Oregonian/Oregonian he was subjecting himself to public ridicule, but saying he wanted to warn the public about the dangers of the hash oil-making process. He said that he had researched how to make it on YouTube, and no one in the videos said it was dangerous.
Tveisme bought the butane from the Shell gas station’s mini-mart at 12155 S.E. Foster Road. It was bottled in canisters under the “Power 5X” name. A description on Amazon.com doesn’t state its use, but commenters in a Q&A section wrote they use the product in butane torches and cigarette lighters. Tveisme’s attorney said Power 5X’s distributors market it to websites and stores that sell marijuana paraphernalia as a product that can be used to make hash oil.
Flynn said the company advises caution in refilling lighters, but has failed to warn about the dangers of the hash oil-extraction process, he said.
“I appreciate that they put on there ‘Don’t overfill your lighter,’ but one of those cans is enough to fill up your lighter for five years,” Flynn said. “It’s a wink and a nod. They know and everybody else knows that this product is used for the manufacture of butane hash oil. It’s not a secret.”
The lawsuit states that the butane is odorless and can unknowingly travel a large distance. When Tveisme’s home furnace clicked on, his garage burst into flames, his suit says.
“You have to adequately warn of the hazards and dangers of your product in this country,” Flynn said.
All of the defendants listed in the lawsuit either declined comment or could not be reached for comment. They are: PacWest Energy, Jackson’s Food Stores, Equilon Enterprises, Shell Oil Products US, Hai Chheng Gov, Hai’s Shell Station, Hai’s Shell #2, Vision International Petroleum, LPC Petroleum, Kimhong Leang, Global Lion, BK Power Imports and Bosco Kwon.
Portland attorney Scott Kocher is representing Tvseime along with Flynn.