Family of Mass. woman who died after asthma attack at cannabis factory files lawsuit

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The family of a woman killed after an asthma attack at a cannabis production plant in Holyoke last year has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming her employer failed to properly vent the facility and protect workers from airborne cannabis dust and mold.

Lorna McMurrey, 27, died in early 2022 while working for Trulieve Cannabis in Holyoke. Her death represented the first asthma-related workplace fatality in the American cannabis industry, Massachusetts public health officials announced last week.

The state Department of Public Health said Trulieve had contributed to McMurrey’s death by not recognizing and controlling ground-up cannabis as a potential respiratory hazard.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Hampden County Superior Court names as defendants the Florida-based Trulieve corporation, a company environmental health and safety manager and contractors who installed the HVAC system at the Holyoke cannabis production facility.

Trulieve did not immediately return to a request for comment.

McMurrey died on Jan. 7, seven months after she began work at Trulieve.

At the time of her death, McMurrey worked in the Holyoke facility’s pre-roll joint production room, grinding cannabis buds that left her and other staff covered “head to toe” in cannabis dust and mold, the lawsuit said.

In November 2021, less than two months before her death, McMurrey suffered an asthma attack while working in the pre-roll production room and was brought by ambulance to a hospital for treatment.

“Trulieve was aware of this incident, but took no steps to protect Lorna following her first collapse while inside the Facility,” the lawsuit said. McMurrey returned to work a day later.

On Jan. 4, 2022, she had difficulty breathing while working in the cannabis facility and collapsed. An ambulance rushed McMurrey to a hospital. She never regained consciousness and died three days later, the lawsuit said.

State officials said last week that McMurrey suffered a severe asthma attack, leading to respiratory failure, cardiac arrest, a brain injury and ultimately her death.

McMurrey was a 2013 graduate of Westfield High School and a longtime resident of West Springfield, attorneys for her family said.

Trulieve announced earlier this year that it was shutting down its operations in Massachusetts, blaming poor business.

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