The family of Lorna McMurrey, a 27-year-old woman who died from an asthma attack at a Trulieve Cannabis Corp. (CSE: TRUL) (OTCQX: TCNNF) production facility in Massachusetts, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company.
McMurrey, who was employed at the Holyoke facility, died in early 2022 after being exposed to ground cannabis dust and mold in the facility’s pre-roll joint production room.
The lawsuit, filed in Hampden County Superior Court, alleges that Trulieve, along with its environmental health and safety manager and the contractors responsible for the facility’s HVAC system, failed to implement adequate safety measures to protect workers from airborne hazards.
According MassLive, Jeremy M. Carroll, the lawyer representing McMurrey’s family, said that the named parties “failed to develop and implement appropriate safety (policies) across its facilities throughout the United States, including its Holyoke facility. Had they done so, Lorna McMurrey would be alive today.”
McMurrey’s death was detailed in a federal report last week, which was conducted alongside the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and linked McMurrey’s death to the facility’s failure to control grated cannabis as a possible respiratory hazard. Despite previous claims by Trulieve defending its facility management and air filtration systems, the lawsuit contends that these measures were insufficient.
The federal report also highlighted “occupational allergic diseases” as an emerging concern in the wider U.S. cannabis industry. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that respiratory and skin symptoms were reported by several of McMurrey’s coworkers.
“Evaluation of workers with new-onset or worsening asthma is essential, along with prompt diagnosis and medical management,” the report stated, adding that McMurrey’s death was “consistent with fatal asthma triggered by cannabis allergy.”
The report and lawsuit come at a time when the cannabis industry is under rising scrutiny for its workplace safety standards. Poor safety oversight also spurred the abrupt shuttering of Curaleaf’s (OTCQX: CURLF) Bellmawr, New Jersey, production facility earlier this year, former workers close to the situation told Green Market Report.
The state’s health department, in response to McMurrey’s death, also released a bulletin urging healthcare providers to be vigilant in identifying work-related asthma among cannabis business employees and offered tips for preventing similar tragedies.
“The legalized cannabis industry in Massachusetts is relatively new and the impact on the health and safety of workers demands our careful attention,” Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Robert Goldstein wrote.
Trulieve, in response to McMurrey’s death, paid a nearly $15,000 settlement to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and announced the shutdown of its Massachusetts operations. The company’s response, however, has done little to mitigate concerns about the industry-wide implications of such incidents.
In July, another death of a worker occurred at an Illinois-based facility operated by Green Thumb Industries (CSE: GTII) (OTCQX: GTBIF). Julie Devinney, 60, tragically collapsed and was found “gasping” to breathe.