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Can bath salts manufacturers be held liable for fatalities?

A Galveston man allegedly committed suicide due to paranoia created by his use of bath salts. Bath salts, sold under a variety of names such as Ivory Wave, Bliss, White Lightning and Vanilla Sky are being ingested, smoked or used intravenously to get high. It is a high described as similar to cocaine or methamphetamine. It is also a high which reportedly leads to paranoia.

The question is this -- can a bath salts manufacturer be held liable for distributing a potentially dangerous product which is used not according to directions, but which is widely known to be used in an unauthorized manner? Could the manufacturer be held liable for the wrongful death of the man from Galveston? The answer is that it depends.

Bath salts that are snorted or taken intravenously can be fatal. A recent news article points to a number of instances in which people died or were seriously injured by using bath salts.

A man from Friendswood, Texas, was taken to a hospital after he was running around in traffic and posing a threat to himself and others. Later that same day, he tried to burn down his home.

A man in Jersey Village was incoherent and rambling as he threw his belongings out of his home. He apparently thought someone was out to get him. He was later found dead in what the authorities suspected was an attempt to escape from the imaginary people who were chasing him.

The news source posited that if it is legal to sell bath salts, why is it illegal to be in possession of them?

As this is currently perhaps a legal gray area, any wrongful death determination could depend upon the skill of the attorney as well as the mood of a jury. In any case, one would think that bath salts could be considered a dangerous drug.

Source: Your Pasadena News, "Alleged bath salt-fueled incidents land Friendswood man in the hospital twice," May 30, 2012

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