The defendants in an $8.9 million lawsuit over an explosion and fire at a Uniontown marijuana processor are trying to turn the tables on the worker who was badly burned in the blast.
In court filings, the defendants argue Jacob Magley’s claims are barred because he helped illegally manufacture the marijuana extract involved in the 2016 explosion.
Magley was injured inside a basement leased by Jason Oei and William “Chris” West at the corner of Portway and Industry streets. He spent months in the hospital recovering from burns to much of his body.
Magley, who lives in Portland, filed suit in Multnomah County Circuit Court against Oei and West, along with their companies Astoria Trading Co., Higher Level Concentrates and High Tide Biological. He claimed the two had been dabbing, a method of consuming marijuana vapors involving an open heat source, while making hash oil using butane, igniting the fire. Oei and West have pleaded guilty to felony assault in the third degree and misdemeanor reckless endangerment. Each received three years probation.
Magley also sued property owner Richard Delphia and several of his companies; two of investor John Harper’s companies; and Sweet Relief, an Astoria marijuana store that leased space above the processing operation.
Harper filed a complaint against Rich & Rhine, a distributor of Whip-It Premium butane, and manufacturer United Brands Products Design Development and Marketing Inc., alleging they were responsible for any defects with the product.
Lawyers for Rich & Rhine, United Brands, Delphia, Harper and Sweet Relief recently filed motions for summary judgment. They claim Magley had been helping Oei and West make the oil, carrying bags of marijuana and pots of hot water into the concentrates room shortly before the explosion.
Magley “was not licensed to make cannabinoid extracts,” United Brands attorney George Pitcher wrote in his motion. “He was initially hired by the Astoria Trading defendants to perform construction work at their extraction site. However, he would sometimes stay at the site after hours to ‘facilitate’ the extraction process.”
The marijuana processor was using an “open” system with pressurized butane to dissolve the cannabinoid crystals from marijuana, in contradiction of state law requiring a closed-loop system preventing butane from escaping into the air, the lawyers argued. Because Magley had been involved in what was considered a Class B felony at the time of his injuries, his claims are barred, they contend.
Lawyers for Sweet Relief, Delphia and Harper have filed their own motions for summary judgment based on the argument that Magley was involved in felonious conduct. A judge will hear the motions next month. A trial is scheduled for May.
Since their convictions, Oei and West have both sought bankruptcy protection to establish a payment plan for damages and prevent home foreclosure and property seizure. A federal judge recently ruled the state lawsuit against them could move forward, albeit without a monetary award, while they seek bankruptcy protection.
District Attorney Josh Marquis, who prosecuted West and Oei, has been critical of the state for not inspecting licensed marijuana manufacturers like Higher Level.
“If I thought he had committed a crime, I would have charged him with one,” Marquis said of Magley. “I don’t think he did.”