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Shop owner, distributors: Dobner bears fault for his death

WHEATON – The defendants in a wrongful death suit brought by the mother of Max Dobner, an Aurora man who died in a 2011 car crash after smoking synthetic marijuana, have launched their defense by stating that the young man bears most of the blame for the incident that claimed his life.

Last month, the defendants – Ruby Mohsin, of Glen Ellyn, and Kevin and Brandon Seydel, of Bettendorf, Iowa – said in documents filed in DuPage County court that they believe Max Dobner misused a particular kind of product, known commonly as synthetic marijuana, to become intoxicated, and, as a result, later crashed his car into a house at the corner of Mooseheart Road and Route 31 in Batavia Township.

Dobner died in the June 14, 2011, crash.

The action comes in response to the suit filed a year ago by Max's mother, Karen Dobner, of Aurora.

The wrongful death suit initially was filed against Mohsin alone, as she was the owner of the Cigar Box, a tobacco shop in Aurora, now closed, at which Max Dobner is believed to have purchased the synthetic marijuana product.

However, in the months since, Dobner's lawyers have pushed to learn the identities of the distributors and manufacturer of the product, which the court documents say was sold under the brand name "iAroma."

In the court filings, Dobner's lawyers say Mohsin identified Kevin and Brandon Seydel, who are involved with a company identified as Spaced Out Herbz, as those who sold the iAroma product to her.

Dobner's lawyers amended the lawsuit in August to include the Seydels as defendants.

In her suit, Dobner alleges that the iAroma product was "intentionally mislabeled" as a potpourri product, even though her lawyers assert that the store owners and distributors knew that the product was "routinely, if not exclusively, ingested by people" by smoking.

Dobner also asserts in court documents that Mohsin was warned personally by someone that iAroma was dangerous and could "cause psychotic problems." And, Dobner alleges that Mohsin did not seek out the identities of those making the product, or any lab certifications of the product's safety.

In their responses, the defendants stated that the product was not sold to be smoked. Instead, they said, it was labeled "Not for Human Consumption" and was intended to serve as "an ionizer or deodorizer," similar to incense.

They said anyone smoking the product, as Max Dobner did, would "misuse" the product.

In the court filings, Mohsin's lawyer argued that Max "smoked iAroma in conscious disregard of the knowledge that doing so would cause him to become intoxicated" and, by doing so, "freely and voluntarily assumed the risk of consuming iAroma by smoking it."

In a response filed by his lawyer, Kevin Sydel argues that, as a result, Max bears "50 percent of more of the total fault" in the incident.

Mohsin also denied outright selling the product to Max on June 14, 2011, or ever being informed of the dangers of the product.

Dobner's lawyers, in response, have denied that Max's death was the fault of his own negligence, as well as denying that iAroma was intended for use as a deodorizer or that it was labeled as "Not for Human Consumption."

The case is scheduled to return to court on Jan. 7, 2013.

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