Portland firm will file lawsuit against aerosol makers and sellers to protect road users from ‘driving zombies’

Joleen Braasch-Berry.
(Photo courtesy Thomas Coon Newton & Frost)

Lawyers for the family of a Salem woman who was hit and killed while bicycling in October 2020 will file a lawsuit on Monday against the manufacturers of inhalants they say turn drivers into “zombies”.

Joleen “Jo” Braasch-Berry was 26-years-old and recently married when she left her job as an elementary school librarian. Braasch-Berry was riding in an unprotected, paint-only bike lane on NE Cherry Street in northeast Salem when the driver of a car failed to handle his vehicle and struck her. The man who hit her, who was arrested and charged with manslaughter and DUI, was seen on security video minutes before the crash leaving a Home Depot and inhaling a can of “CRC Duster”, a popular brand of aerosol spray used to clean computer keyboards and other types of electronic equipment.

On Monday (August 9th), Portland law firm Thomas Coon Newton & Frost (a financial supporter of BikePortland) will hold a press conference outside Multnomah County Courthouse to draw attention not only to this tragedy but to the issue of people who drive while intoxicated with inhalant products. Their lawsuit will be against Duster manufacturers and distributors on behalf of the estate and husband of Braasch-Berry.

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“We hope the unique facts of this case show the responsibility those who profit from Duster sales have for the wreckage that results from failing to take steps to protect us. The same steps as have been used with opioids, glue with intoxication ingredients and antihistamines,” reads a statement form TCN & F. “The known abuse of these products and catastrophic results from the actions of drivers suffering from the acute effects of inhalants create a responsibility for manufacturers and sellers to better protect the public.”

Dust removers like CRC Duster are made of difluoroethane, a propellant that was once studied as a surgical anesthetic because it is a well-known central nervous system depressant. Products containing this ingredient are sold in big box retailers, are known to be addictive and to cause severe intoxication in users; but there are no restrictions to buying them. According to TCN & F, nearly three million people are estimated to intentionally inhale dust removers to get high every year and abuse of the products accounts for more car crashes than any other type of inhalant.

Veteran bike advocate and TCN & F partner Ray Thomas knew Braasch-Berry when she attended Hillsboro High School. “She was a delightful person and her death was totally unnecessary that maybe some good can come from using what happened to her to publicize the largely unrecognized dangers to road users from drivers high on inhalants.”

Braasch-Berry’s husband and other road safety advocates will attend Monday’s press conference, which is slated to begin at 3:00 pm on Monday at the public entrance to the (new) courthouse on SW 1st Avenue.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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Nico W.
Nico W.
1 year ago

Condolences to the family of Joleen. What a tragedy. Glad the responsible individual was caught and convicted. This lawsuit is of course just a shakedown of lawful businesses. Ridiculous. Just makes my visits to Home Depot more expensive.
Although this has got me thinking maybe injured cyclists should sue the Portland City Council for their actions which have eliminated traffic enforcement has in Portland. This failure of city government has caused an epidemic of dangerous driving and vehicular violence. Maybe a lawsuit would get their attention.

cmh89
cmh89
1 year ago
Reply to  Nico W.

Yeah, I’m pretty confused by this. Of all the potentially at fault parties, the duster manufacturer seems to me to be the least responsible. The most at fault outside of the drugged driver seems to me to be the City of Salem for building substandard infrastructure and promoting it as safe while knowing that it isn’t.

Although this has got me thinking maybe injured cyclists should sue the Portland City Council for their actions which have eliminated traffic enforcement has in Portland.

PPB made the choice to stop doing traffic enforcement, not the city council. They also made the choice to loudly proclaim they weren’t going to do traffic enforcement just to make sure everyone knew. I think it makes sense to sue PPB for their actions which have endangered the lives of everyone in the city.

The fact that they went to Hardesty’s house at 3 AM to try and arrest her for a non-injury hit and run that she wasn’t even responsible for really really undercuts the myth that they don’t have the resources to handle traffic enforcement. When I got assaulted on N Williams a couple of years ago, I couldn’t even get them to come and take a report despite having the attackers face, license plate, and entire incident on video.

Maybe someone could sue PPB for abandonment of duties or misuse of tax funds?

Nico W.
Nico W.
1 year ago
Reply to  cmh89

It’s a joint problem (City Council and PPB). The PPB was forced to prioritize 911 calls due to the City’s Council irresponsible budget cuts and lack of support for fully staffing the PPB. PPB is far fromperfect but Portland is now seeing what happens with the governmental abandonment of a functioning law enforcement agency (drastic increases in traffic violence, gun violence, property crime and destructive protests).

cmh89
cmh89
1 year ago
Reply to  Nico W.

he PPB was forced to prioritize 911 calls due to the City’s Council irresponsible budget cuts and lack of support for fully staffing the PPB.

That’s simply not true on multiple levels. The mild budget trim did not lead to a reduction in funded FTEs.

PPB has the funds to fully staff their department. Right now. Today. They can’t hire enough employees. They get plenty of applicants so I’d guess the hiring issue comes down to the type of person who wants to be a cop having the record and attitude of the type of person who shouldn’t be a cop.

They are hiring right now in fact: https://www.joinportlandpolice.com/entry#hiring-process

Starting wage is $66k, significantly better than pretty much any other job that requires a four year degree in this city.

Portland police were using the funds that were allocated for additional LEOs as an OT slush fund. So they overstaffed protests and get rich of off tear gassing the city.

. PPB is far fromperfect

Sure, they are closer to irredeemably terrible.

but Portland is now seeing what happens with the governmental abandonment of a functioning law enforcement agency

Not really, PPB is still a sponge soaking up taxpayer funding that could go to other worthwhile ventures. What we are seeing right now is what happens when you try to hold a police department accountable, they throw a temper tantrum and engage in an illegal slowdown. So much integrity at PPB and PPA!

(drastic increases in traffic violence, gun violence, property crime and destructive protests).

All these things have been rampant for years

1. Traffic violence is the fault of PBOT. They are the ones who refuse to install hard traffic calming measures. Plenty of other places have plenty of traffic cops and plenty of vehicular violence. In fact, the police not only engage in vehicular violence themselves by unnecessarily speeding and playing on their computers while driving, most police departments view negligent driving as a bonus source of revenue to buy new toys with.

2. Police don’t stop gun violence, they respond to it. The police are no more capable of stopping a shooting than you or I are. If you want the proof, go look at the most dangerous cities in the country, they all have more police per capita than Portland. Maybe more cops increases gun violence?

3. Property crime has been rampant in Portland for decades. It increased despite PPB getting huge budget increases every year.

4. “Destructive protests’. LOL you have no idea what a destructive protest is. I’m not in favor of the idiots breaking windows and spraying paint, but actual destruction can’t be swept up the next day.

And PPBs heavy handed violence in putting down peaceful protests was the main catalyst for the protests continuing for so long. Not only did PPB refused to acknowledge our grievances, they showed just how violent and thuggish they can be. Now the taxpayers will fund the settlements we have made over their criminal brutality and we have even more payouts in the pipeline.

Wendy H.
Wendy H.
1 year ago
Reply to  cmh89

cm89,

911 calls are up 45% over last year. People don’t call 911 to chat about the weather. There has been a huge increase in both violent and non-violent crime. Hopefully one day I can ride my bike without carrying Mace like I used to.

https://katu.com/news/local/portland-911-center-dealing-with-unprecedented-call-load

cmh89
cmh89
1 year ago
Reply to  Wendy H.

There has been a huge increase in both violent and non-violent crime. Hopefully one day I can ride my bike without carrying Mace like I used to.

I agree, the COVID-19 pandemic has exasperated social issues and led to much higher crime rates in Portland and in the rest of the country

Many big cities are experiencing homicide records. It’s the sad inevitable conclusion to a country with no social safety net, non-existent mental health care for those who need it most, and free and easy access to any type of gun one desires.

The Dude
The Dude
1 year ago
Reply to  cmh89

Well said. It’s a shame you have to spend so much time correcting factual knowledge deficiencies.

Matt
Matt
1 year ago

I don’t understand the basis of the lawsuit from the article. What are the steps the law firm thinks the duster company should have taken?

Nico W.
Nico W.
1 year ago

That’s just silliness. Bleach is dangerous. Dran-o is dangerous. Tylenol is dangerous. Should all these items be placed in locked cases?

pruss2ny
pruss2ny
1 year ago

“at significant rates….”

ok…i didn’t see it in the article but are there numbers suggesting that people are using these types of inhalants and killing people with their cars “at significant rates?” curious and a perusal of google didn’t turn up a ton..

Steve C
Steve C
1 year ago
Reply to  pruss2ny

I couldn’t find any numbers regarding DUIIs from inhalants (it is more difficult to recognize and prove vs drinking due to transitory affects and lack of testing and detection training by law enforcement). But there are a number of sources quoting 21-22 million Americans abusing inhalants, and CRC Duster being the most available and popular.

We put restrictions on many unsafe and abused consumer products, I don’t see why Duster couldn’t be placed in a similar category.

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/inhalants/letter-director

Jason Skelton
Jason Skelton
1 year ago
Reply to  Nico W.

Fortunately there is a process to figure out whether there is a basis for legal liability.

Mark Allen Remy
Mark Allen Remy
1 year ago
Reply to  Nico W.
Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 year ago

But can we agree there is a point on the slope at which things become slippery?

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 year ago
Reply to  Nico W.

They come with warnings and it is up to the consumer to decide whether or not to use them negligently.

EP
EP
1 year ago

Geez I didn’t realize this was a thing. Now I’ll know what’s up the next time I see a bunch of duster cans next to the “whip cream” cartridges at a truck stop.

Eric Murphy
Eric Murphy
1 year ago

Clearly the barriers to buying spray paint are working. Just look around Portland these days. LOL.

Basil Francois
Basil Francois
1 year ago

tragic but this seems like a reach. maybe petition the legislature to increase penalties for drugged driving that harms pedestrians and cyclists?

bjorn
bjorn
1 year ago

I knew someone (they have since passed away) who wrecked their car after doing inhalants. It is no excuse, but one of the reasons that some folks are getting into these is that they can’t be tested for. The person I knew had been badly injured in Afghanistan and was concerned that he would lose his benefits if he was kicked out of the military because he tested positive for something like marijuana and so instead he was using far more hazardous drugs to self medicate. The military uses people up and then just abandons them back into the US when they aren’t useful to them anymore and it makes all of us less safe.

Mike Quigley
Mike Quigley
1 year ago
Reply to  bjorn

Abandoned by the military? Not in my case. My VA healthcare dealings are far superior from what I’ve received from the private sector. But, I speak only for myself.

bjorn
bjorn
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Quigley

He was still active but it was clear that he wouldn’t be going back in country. They had him call in once a day but gave him enough money to get in trouble and nothing else to do although he would have been capable of doing lots of productive desk job type things. Then they drug tested him frequently. In my opinion it was pretty clear that they were hoping that he would screw up so they could bounce him out with a bad discharge rather than paying for his medical care.

The Dude
The Dude
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Quigley

And a lot of health care systems are far superior to the US private health care business, so perhaps not much of a compliment in the big picture.

Hubba Hubba
Hubba Hubba
1 year ago
Reply to  The Dude

Actually, none are better than ours. You may think their health INSURANCE systems are better, or their prices are better, but no one has better CARE than in the USA. Is it cheap? Nope. Does insurance here suck out loud? Yes, and is far worse and more expensive since the ACA removed all competition from the types of policies that insurers can offer consumers. Because we are now forced to buy only ACA-approved policies, they can, and are, charging any amount they want and we have no option except to pay it or pretty-much go without insurance at all. But that was a feature, not a defect, so we would scream and yell for single payer. When we get that, then the money will start to dry up a little bit and the quality of CARE will go down, to match that in other nations with socialized medicine.

The Dude
The Dude
1 year ago
Reply to  Hubba Hubba
Thomas, Coon, Newton & Frost

This info sheet might make it clearer why we are doing this and what we want to have happen. There will be more detailed available at the news conference. I suggest you watch the youtube video link and decide for yourself whether this Duster chemical is dangerous enough to at least keep the stuff behind the counter for sale.On August 9, 2021 we will file a complaint in Multnomah County against duster manufacturers and distributors on behalf of the estate and husband of Joleen Braasch-Berry, a 26-year-old bicycle commuter killed October 6, 2020 while riding her bicycle home from work by a young man who minutes before had purchased and taken hits (as recorded on security video) in the parking lot as he walked to his car with an aerosol can of CRC “Duster” from the checkout at the Salem Home Depot store. He then drove onto the street and two minutes later drove onto the shoulder, smashing his car into Joleen.

Joleen and Her bike
We hope the unique facts of this case show the responsibility those who profit from Duster sales have for the wreckage that results from failing to take steps to protect us, the same steps as have been used with opioids, glue with intoxication ingredients and antihistamines. The known abuse of these products and catastrophic results from the actions of drivers suffering from the acute effects of inhalants create a responsibility for manufacturers and sellers to better protect the public.

The acute effects of Duster inhalant intoxication are extreme. A good example is contained in this youtube video:
https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.youtube.com_watch-3Fv-3DWt-2D3JF1tgM0&d=DwQGaQ&c=euGZstcaTDllvimEN8b7jXrwqOf-v5A_CdpgnVfiiMM&r=tA0X_Uto6bGeC1jtZHKNiT_p4LKyQV_gwQ-yqHBu8lE&m=ZbLrH2yxJZYxV0_RYCvK0bGoxyaBOqmahPWw7GySlig&s=vBMfEEKrjAAkAfFalHdVNBdexiFCE8iKD_qUCOXfuUw&e=

Riding home from work on your bike, walking in a neighborhood or working with a volunteer group to pick up trash alongside the roadway should not result in catastrophic injury or death from a driver who has overdosed on inhalants. Duster products are sold in big box stores to anyone who brings their money to the counter- no restrictions are in place to protect the public from the person who “huffs” these products to get high.

DUSTER FACTS:
• Dust removers like CRC Duster are made of Difluoroethane, a propellant that was once studied as a surgical anesthetic because it is a well-known central nervous system depressant.
• Dust removers are more likely to be intentionally inhaled to get high than any other inhalant.
• Nearly 3 Million people are estimated to intentionally inhale dust removers to get high every year.
• Emergency room visits related to the intentional inhalation of dust removers have increased steadily every year since 2006.
• Dust removers are more likely to result in death or severe bodily harm to the huffers and innocent bystanders than any other inhalant.
• Dust remover abuse accounts for more car crashes than any other type of inhalant.

We plan to gather with Jolene’s husband George who will be available for interviews. We will hold signs and speak briefly about Joleen and why Duster inhalants are so dangerous to Vulnerable Road Users. Representatives from The Street Trust and Oregon Walks will participate. These groups advocate for the folks who are on the front line and receiving end of zombie driving by huffers of Duster Products. We expect the news conference to start at 3:00 PM and last 30 minutes.

About the law firms: Longtime Portland law firm Thomas Coon Newton and Frost has joined the national legal effort initiated by Minneapolis’ Robins Kaplan to hold manufacturers of Duster products accountable for Duster injuries and deaths. Details about the individual cases and background will be available.

Background materials and a copy of the legal complaint filed on 8/9/2021 will be available.

Ray

Opus the Poet
1 year ago

Are you going to sue Coors and Budweiser for making easily-available intoxicants that are proven to cause harm to others when consumed?

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  Opus the Poet

Coors and Budweiser also cause harm to their consumers by masquerading as “beer”.

The Dude
The Dude
1 year ago
Reply to  Watts

❤️‍

The Dude
The Dude
1 year ago
Reply to  Opus the Poet

Apparently, you missed the (rather obvious, IMO) fact that they are suing for exactly the sort of restrictions that exist for the sale of alcohol.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago

I’d like to know why “dust removers” need this stuff at all. Wouldn’t compressed air do the same job without the risk of abuse? Perhaps, like the manufacturers of Oxycodone, the folks making this stuff knowingly and intentionally profit from its abuse.

The Dude
The Dude
1 year ago
Reply to  Watts

Exactly.