‘It was their job to protect Lorna’: Family of woman who died on the job at Mass. cannabis factory files wrongful death suit

Local News

“Lorna was my life. This company took my whole life away from me.”

The family of a woman who died from an asthma attack while on the job at a Massachusetts cannabis cultivation and processing facility is suing the company and its HVAC contractors. 

The family of 27-year-old Lorna McMurrey has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Hampden County Superior Court against Trulieve and contractors it employed to install the HVAC system in its Holyoke processing facility, attorney’s for the family announced. The suit alleges “gross negligence, recklessness and willful and wanton misconduct,” accusing the company and its contractors of failing to implement policies procedures that would minimize the risk of exposure to airborne cannabis dust and mold in the facility. 

Lorna McMurrey – Provided

McMurrey was filling pre-rolls at the facility in January 2022 when she said she couldn’t breathe. An Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation found that she had inhaled ground cannabis dust and died of occupational asthma. Trulieve reached a settlement with OSHA earlier this year over her death.

On Tuesday, attorney’s for her family said less than two months before the 27-year-old’s death, on Nov. 9, 2021, she suffered an asthma attack while working in the pre-roll production room “precipitated by significant exposure to cannabis, especially airborne cannabis dust and/or mold particles, in large part due to the failures of the HVAC system at the Facility and lack of safety protocols.”

McMurrey was taken to the hospital by ambulance for treatment, the attorney’s said in a statement. Truelieve, they allege, was aware of the incident “but took no steps to protect Lorna following her first collapse while inside the facility.”

“Trulieve did not provide or require Lorna’s employer, Life Essence, to comply with proper safety plans, policies or procedures for workers suffering from occupational asthma,” the statement reads. “Trulieve also failed to provide Life Essence with effective information and training to workers on hazardous materials they were exposed to such as ground cannabis and mold. Due to these failures, Lorna returned to work the next day to her same position as a technician in the ‘Pre-roll’ production room.”

McMurrey suffered a second asthma attack while working in the pre-roll production room on Jan. 4, 2022. She died three days later.

“Trulieve needs to be held accountable,” McMurrey’s mother, Laura Bruneau, said in a statement. “It was their job to protect Lorna. Lorna was my life. This company took my whole life away from me. You can’t have the big cannabis industry come into Massachusetts and not protect Lorna and other workers.” 

McMurrey’s death is the first reported occupational asthma death in the U.S. cannabis industry. A recent federal report outlined that asthma and other allergic diseases are a growing concern in the industry and that McMurrey’s death “illustrates missed opportunities for prevention, including workplace exposures, medical surveillance, and treatment according to the current asthma guidelines.”

“The Defendants in this burgeoning industry failed to develop and implement appropriate safety policies across its facilities throughout the United States, including its Holyoke Facility,” Jeremy Carroll, one of the attorneys working on behalf of Lorna McMurrey’s family, said in a statement. “Had they done so, Lorna McMurrey would be alive today. Lorna’s family now seeks accountability from Trulieve and its contractors for their clear disregard for worker safety, in hopes of preventing such needless loss for other families.”