Mother Of Teen Who Died Sues Store That Sold ‘Potpourri’ Drug

AURORA, Ill. (CBS) — A west suburban mother is going after the owner of a closed tobacco store, for selling her son a product the woman claims had synthetic marijuana in it.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports, Karen Dobner’s 19-year-old son, Max, died on June 14, after the car he was driving flew off the road in North Aurora.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports

Dobner tells the Daily Herald that before the accident, Max had smoked a product he bought at the Cigar Box in Aurora. She says even though the product – IAroma Hypnotic – doesn’t say so on the packaging, it contains synthetic marijuana.

She says the drug caused her son to drive recklessly and crash.

Dobner filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Ruby Mohsin of Glen Ellyn, the owner of the Cigar Box, which was located a the Westfield Fox Valley mall in Aurora but has since gone out of business.

The lawsuit says only marshmallow leaf and fruit scent were listed as ingredients on the IAroma Hypnotic package, but the product really contained synthetic marijuana that is vastly more potent than the real thing, the Daily Herald reported.

Dobner has also formed the To The Maximus Foundation with the goals of: Education, Eradication, and Cooperation. She says she wants help other teens who think this drug is safe.

Max Dobner was driving along Mooseheart Road in Aurora when the car he was driving flew off the road at the intersection with Route 31 and went airborne into a one-story house. It was believed he was driving 100 miles per hour at the time. He died of blunt force trauma.

Hours before the crash, he’d told his older brother he and a friend had bought IAroma at a tobacco shop at an Aurora mall.

The product is legally sold as potpourri by the gram in smoke shops at the mall, in gas stations and online.

2 Investigator Dave Savini reported over the summer that several Web sites are selling the product, including a Louisiana company called Domestic Oddities, which markets IAroma along with other brands.

The company is run by Eric Fontenelle, who is only 18. In a YouTube video, he claimed his potpourri is euphoric and cause marijuana-like effects.

Fontenelle is part of a billion-dollar, unregulated industry. He claimed he does not tell people to smoke his product, but in his video he says, “What you do with it is your own business.”

He also said Max Dobner must have smoked a copycat version of his product. Fontenelle says his product was not sold in Illinois and the product he now sells is free of anything harmful. He warns there are hundreds of copycat operations selling these products and have unknown ingredients.

In fact, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said this summer that when law enforcement tests and bans one of these types of products or synthetic form of marijuana, new ones show up on the market overnight.

Karen Dobner is also pushing for legislation to ban the substance.

  • Disgraceful

    You can’t sue someone for selling a legal product. The guy was of legal age to purchase it. Only a complete and total moron would smoke potpourri. This woman is just trying to cash in on her son’s own stupidity. NO CASH PAYOUT FOR YOU!!!!!!!!

    • Julie

      No she’s not. She is trying to hold accountable those that are “cashing in” on selling this poison. I hope she wins.

    • Roberta Waker

      Yes you can if synthetic marijuana was one of the ingredients and it wasn’t listed and there were no warnings. If Eric Fontenelle claimed his potpourri is euphoric and causes marijuana-like effects he KNEW the kids would be smoking it. There will be money awarded because this product was NOT totally legal, did not list all the ingredients and contained no warnings. Payback is a bit## and I certainly hope it IS.

      • Julie

        Those of you who are calling this “legal” and think that justifies the sale of this garbage need to think before you speak. Its only called “legal” because the manufacturers of this poison keep changing the chemical makeup of the poison they spray on it and then it does not fall under the jurisdiction of the law that makes it ILLEGAL TO SELL IT.

      • nirvana4me

        No you can’t sue a shop owner…He was selling a LEGAL product. If the package did not have all the ingredients listed on it then it is the Government’s fault for allowing the manufacturer to sell the product. Going after the store owner is STUPID and RIDICULOUS. NO PAYOUTS PLS!!!

      • melissa Burns

        But if he was advertising that and this kid decided to buy it and smoke it, that is on him, there is no personal responisbility anymore. People buy and huff paint and other legal products, can their families sue if they die too? He obviously smoked this intending to get a high of some sort or why would he have smoked it at all??????

  • Roberta Waker

    Karen Dobner is doing the right thing by suing and pushing for legislation to ban this and other “legal” substances that are causing harm and killing our kids. These kids are innocent victims who are looking for a high and are being sold stuff they are told is totally legal when it isn’t. I hope the appropriate officials keep up with the synthetics and keep banning them. ALL ingredients should be listed on ANY product that could even potentially be harmful and Fontenelle isn’t so innocent because he knows what these kids are doing. They should put him and others like him in jail and throw away the key for all the lives they are destroying.

    • Disgraceful

      I have to respectfully disagree with you Roberta. Pushing for a change in legislation is the proper way for this lady to get the laws changed, but suing a business owner for selling a legal product is just wrong. In addition, a 19 year old is not a child and these shops can’t legally sell the product to children. The people who are smoking this garbage are just plain stupid, as marijuana is readily available. The moral here is don’t smoke potpourri. Everyone is exclusively responsible for their own decisions!

    • Toni Ryan

      You are completely wrong. The “19-year-old” new what he was doing. You cannot blame a shop owner for your children trying to get high. Why do you think this kid bought it? Why are you parents always trying to say your children are “innocent”? He is the idiot that wanted to get high and HE is the one that behind the wheel of a car and crashed it? Stop blaming everyone else for the way “your” children act. You raised them!

    • Gerrie Smith

      Put them in jail for what. This is a young adult, who most likely did his research on the effects of smoking this mess. Should be held accountable for his own actions. So if that is the case put a tobacco/alcohol distributions in jail or let not forget all the FDA folks that approve billions of dollars for pending drugs that has a far worst affect on people when they take them. Or yes the pharmacy hold them accoutable for the adverse side effects legal drugs has on you when you take them. And every child that is born due to your birth control pill failed to protect you from getting pregnant the list goes on and on. He is not a kid he is a young adults who knew right from wrong. Where is common sense people

  • Greg Teng

    As the old saying goes, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”


  • Rachel

    I am from where this accident occurred. To be going this speed – where this accident took place is almost impossible unless your mind is completely altered. If your mind can be that altered on something that is sold legally, then there is a problem. Plain and simple. I hope that this mother is successful in her endeavors of legislation. I also understand that she has to establish a civil case to make a change. With that being mentioned, – Dear Disgraceful: It appears this loving mother is very simply taking the appropriate action to protect others from becoming a victim themselves, or a victim of the loss of a loved one – by using this product. “Only a total moron would smoke potpourri” doesn’t seem to be a very specific, intellectual or compelling statement. You may want to rethink what you just posted about what seems to be the lost life of a very nice person. Have a good day – because you still are here to have one.

    • dlc

      “If your mind can be that altered on something that is sold legally, then there is a problem. Plain and Simple.” Alcohol is legal. What do you think about that?

      • jd

        Alcohol is sold as alcohol with the intent of the buyer being they will drink it. This “potpourri” or “incense” is purposely marketed under a false and misleading title and it says “not for human consumption” only so it does not fall under the scrutiny of the FDA. Those who buy it are young, impressionable teenagers/young adults whose brains are not even fully mature yet. That is what this stuff is marketed and geared to. Is it dumb they they smoke it? Absolutely, but we all know how foolish teenagers/young adults are, so who are the real perpetrators with the bad intent? The manufacturers and those that sell it. It is a huge industry and those that sell it are trying to “cash in.” .

  • Toni Ryan

    The “19-year-old” new what he was doing. You cannot blame a shop owner for your children trying to get high. Why do you think this kid bought it? Why are you parents always trying to say your children are “innocent”? He is the idiot that wanted to get high and HE is the one that behind the wheel of a car and crashed it? Stop blaming everyone else for the way “your” children act. You raised them!

    It amazes me how all the parents today have to blame someone else. This woman is obviously just trying to make money off of her sons death. SHAME ON YOU!!!!!

    • Gerrie Smith

      This mom is just trying to cover up her dead son’s misdeeds. I agree with you totally. Mom needs a reality check on life and the fact she knows that she had a druggie for a son. Lets face it if it walks like a duck, quack like a duck, looks like a duck (it is a duck) If his personality has change his demeanor is differents and you notice that he comes on spaced out and u don’t smell alcohol on his breath
      He has to be doing drugs of some sort. Parents are their kids worst nitemere.
      That mom knew her son was on drugs, trust me that wasn’t the only drugs he was using>>>>>>>

  • B Dub

    Even if it did contain synthetic marijuana, it wouldn’t cause someone to drive a 100 mph. Almost everyone of these potpourri products have a label on it stating “Not for human consumption.” Which part of this did Max not understand? Her son made the fatal mistake of deciding to drive recklessly, the shop owner did not force him to, nor did the potpourri.

    This lawsuit will get tossed out quicker than Kim Kardashian’s marriage.

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  • In Batavia

    “Synthetic cannabinoids act on the body the same way natural cannabinoids do. Drug designers have come up with a number of compounds, changing a molecule here and there to skirt laws that banned specific chemical compounds.

    The incense Max Dobner smoked said on the package that it was made of marshmallow flower, a plant used in herbal medicine. Kane County investigators have ordered tests of the remains of the package, to see which, if any, cannabinoids it had.

    The Drug Enforcement Agency says the leaves are often sprayed with varying amounts of synthetic cannabinoids. They may also be mixed with PCP, real marijuana and amphetamines, according to Naperville-based psychiatrist Dr. Danesh Alam. He treats people who have used the incense.

    Just like real pot, the synthetic version can raise a person’s blood pressure, increase their pulse, induce vomiting and cause panic, paranoia and hallucinations, he said. Max Dobner complained to a brother, via telephone, that he was having a panic attack, according to Karen Dobner.”

    Not every person that smokes marajuana has a good experience. Synthetics probably have the same side effects as the real thing.

  • To CBS

    Slow this

  • Jim

    I’m going to sue Home Depot because they sell spray paint that allows me to get high!!!

    • jd

      Pain is sold for painting. This “incense” is sold for smoking. Everyone knows it. You are comparing apples with oranges.

    • Gerrie Smith

      Hey Jim I got a better one. I am going to sue the food industry for being morbid obese…….How about that. Oh this is the best one I am going to sue GOD because I can’t see him or feel him and he doesn’t answer my prayers the way I want him too…..This mother needs a reality check…….

      • Julie

        Its really best to leave the commenting to adults who know how to hold real conversations.


    How did she know that he brought it from that particular store? She is not going to lay any blame on her dead son at all. He knew what the effects that it would have on him. Just like if you take medicine and it clearly state not to drink alcohol or operate a vehicle and u don’ t follow instruction and u have an accident killing you or someone else do u sue the drug company or the pharmacy. Give me a break that young man was a druggie and mom hates to admit to that. You can not hold others accountable for your lost, or shift the blame because as of his results he is dead because of his actions to do drug. We as mothers don’t won’t to admit our kids are at fault

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