PORTLAND — The story starts off sweet: As he often did, Charley Gee picked up flowers for his wife while grocery shopping.
On this particular day in February 2012, he chose “Love Story Lily.” The flower was packaged with a warning about not being for human consumption and about the risk of staining clothing, but there was nothing about potential harm to cats, said the Southeast Portland lawyer.
In the next 24 hours, Gee and his wife, Kara Bredahl, would rush their 8-year-old cat, Boogaloo, to DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital.
There, doctors flushed the cat’s kidneys, put him on kitty dialysis and kept him for four days after the cat chewed on the leaves of the lily — which is highly toxic to cats.
Now, Gee is suing New Seasons and its floral supplier, Bay City Flower Co. from Half Moon Bay, Calif., alleging product liability and negligence because they failed to label the flower with a cat-specific warning.
The lily was “unreasonably dangerous,” according to the complaint, filed last week in Multnomah County Circuit Court.
Neither New Seasons nor Bay City immediately responded to messages for comment.
Gee argues that the responsibility lies entirely on the retailer and wholesaler to disclose the risk — not on cat owners to know it themselves.
“When you have a consequence as high as that, it’s up to the retailer or a manufacturer — who are making money off this product — to warn of these potential high consequences of buying the product,” he said.
His animal-law attorney, Dane Johnson, cited floral industry papers alerting retailers to the risk lilies pose to cats.
In addition, Johnson noted that the companies did label the flower with the not-for-human-consumption warning and the staining alert.
Those warnings could actually lull buyers into a “false sense of security,” Johnson said. The buyer would not realize there are other hazards.
In addition to seeking $1,542.47 in veterinary bills, Gee wants Bay City and New Seasons to specifically label lilies as highly toxic to cats. He said he filed the lawsuit after both companies declined to pay the vet bills and add labeling.
Boogaloo has made a full recovery, Gee said. His flower shopping, however, has not.
Now, if he buys flowers, he doesn’t bring them home, he said. They go directly to his wife’s office.