Court Denies Jurisdiction in Case Against Manufacturers of Synthetic Marijuana

On April 15th, 2021, The Florida Supreme Court denied jurisdiction in Vickers v. DZE, Corp. (SC20-1280). At the trial level, the main issue was whether a claim for failure to warn can survive a motion for directed verdict in favor of the manufacturer of a product when the injured party was a third-party who was injured after the consumer of the product performed illegal acts
after using the product.

DZE is a corporation that manufactured products containing a synthetic marijuana known as “spice” which is a highly dangerous chemical marketed as “potpourri.” This product was labeled as “not for human consumption.” A third party consumed DZE’s product, became impaired, and rammed his vehicle into another killing 3 of the plaintiffs and injuring another. The plaintiff’s, Vickers, brought a wrongful death action against DZE Corporation alleging negligence and strict liability causes of action against DZE. Vickers alleged that DZE failed to warn consumers of the dangers of its product, “potpourri.”

DZE filed a motion for directed verdict, arguing that the intoxicated driver was the sole proximate cause of the deceased’s deaths. The trial court denied the motion and allocated 65 percent of fault to DZE and 35 percent to the intoxicated driver. DZE appealed the decision to the First District Court of Appeal. The First District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s decision, holding that as a matter of law, the intoxicated driver’s “conduct was the sole superseding proximate cause of the accident that resulted in the tragic deaths” of the deceased. Therefore, the First District Court of Appeal held that there could be no liability on DZE.

Vickers then sought the Florida Supreme Court’s review of the First District Court of Appeal’s decision. Vickers argued that the First District Court of Appeal’s decision was an express conflict with the decisions of the Florida Supreme Court and the Second, Third, and Fourth District Courts of Appeal. DZE responded that the First District Court of Appeal’s decision was consistent with all Florida tort law because the intoxicated driver became
voluntarily impaired by consuming the “potpourri.”

The Florida Supreme Court declined to accept jurisdiction in this case.