A Florida judge last week ordered a kratom retailer and distributor to pay $11 million to the family of a woman who died in 2021 after overdosing on the herbal supplement.
A federal lawsuit alleges that Grow, LLC, and The Kratom Distro “misrepresented and misled consumers about the risks of Kratom,” which ultimately led to the death of 39-year-old nurse Krystal Talavera, of Palm Beach, a day after her oldest son’s high school graduation.
“I again emphasize that no award of damages will ever be adequate and that this decision reflects nothing more than an adherence to prior cases,” Florida Southern District Judge Donald Middlebrooks said last week.
Kratom, which is a supplement extracted from the leaves of a tropical South American tree, is marketed as a pain reliever and mood enhancer but can have dangerous – and sometimes deadly – side effects, including addiction, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Kratom is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration and is illegal in many states.
A federal lawsuit states that “[i]n the years preceding Krystal’s death, she was introduced to Kratom by friends” and “was under the belief that Kratom was, as it is marketed, a safe and natural dietary supplement.”
Talavera had just finished preparing breakfast for her partner and father of her youngest son on Father’s Day morning on June 20, 2021. When he walked out of their bedroom around 11 a.m., he found her “lying face down on the living room floor” next to their 14-month-old child, who witnessed her collapse.
Talavera’s partner found her coffee cup and a bag of a powder kratom product called “Space Dust” that Talavera had purchased from The Kratom Distro. He called 911, and authorities transported Talavera to a nearby hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
The Palm Beach County Coroner determined Talavera’s cause of death to be “acute mitragynine intoxication,” or kratom poisoning.
“At high concentrations, mitragynine produces opioid-like effects, such as respiratory failure,” the autopsy report states, according to the lawsuit.
“GROW, LLC’s and HARDER’s Kratom products were constantly sold without any warning regarding instructions for use, the recommended dosage, and known risks of the products, including the risks of abuse, dependence, addiction, overdose, and death,” the federal complaint states.
Talavera’s oldest son testified in court that his mother died a day after his high school graduation, and the tragedy derailed his college plans. Her ex-husband, Benny Flores, testified about the trauma inflicted on his two young sons with Talavera, including their 6-year-old, “who kept asking when his mother was coming back,” a press release states.
“This $11 million judgment should be a wakeup call to the kratom industry about this dangerous and unregulated substance,” Talavera’s lawyer, Tamara Williams, said in a Monday statement. “There are families across the country who know firsthand that kratom is addictive and can be deadly.”
Attorney Michael Cowgill called on government representatives “to protect the people across the country who are addicted to kratom and to protect other families from having to deal with unnecessary kratom overdose deaths” in a Monday statement.
The legal sale and use of kratom in Florida has led to a slew of lawsuits against distributors.
An estimated 1.2 million American adults over age 12 used kratom in 2021, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
The FDA warns consumers against kratom use “because of the risk of serious adverse events, including liver toxicity, seizures, and substance use disorder (SUD),” the agency’s website states. “In rare cases, deaths have been associated with kratom use, as confirmed by a medical examiner or toxicology reports.”