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Social Media Victims Law Center amends lawsuit against Snap, Inc. for Snapchat’s for its role in facilitating the sale of deadly fentanyl-laced pills
The lawsuit alleges that Snapchat’s features such as disappearing messages, “My Eyes Only” and “Snap Map” connect users with drug dealers and enable them to elude police by erasing evidence of a crime
LOS ANGELES – January 31, 2023 – The Social Media Victims Law Center (SMVLC), a legal resource for parents of children and teenage victims harmed by social media addiction and online abuse, has amended a recent lawsuit against Snap, Inc. so that it now includes the families of 15 teenagers and young adults across nine states, all of whom died after taking fentanyl laced pills purchased from drug dealers connected to them by Snapchat. In each case, the teens and young adults believed that they were purchasing prescription medications like Percocet, Oxycodone and Xanax; but instead, were sold counterfeit pills containing lethal doses of fentanyl.
This amendment is part of the fourth suit SMVLC has filed in less than four months alleging that Snapchat’s disappearing messages, “My Eyes Only” and “Snap Map” features, among others unique to the platform encourage, enable and facilitate illegal and deadly drug sales of counterfeit pills containing lethal doses of fentanyl to minors and young adults. In total, SMVLC has filed complaints relating to Snapchat and fentanyl poisoning on behalf of 26 families across 11 states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota and Washington. These lawsuits allege that Snapchat provides drug dealers with a never-ending source of customers, purposefully obstructs parental supervision and are designed to create unhealthy social media addictions. Snapchat also enables dealers to locate and access nearby minors and young adults, affirmatively connects them to these young clients and promises the posting and exchange of drug menus and other information that disappears – erasing all evidence of the crime.
“Time and time again we have seen the harm that Snapchat has done to families across the nation because of its role in connecting drug dealers to minors and young adults,” said Matthew P. Bergman, founding attorney of SMVLC. “Snapchat is ending lives and tearing families apart because of its product features that facilitate the sale of counterfeit drugs on its platform and protects criminals.
We have even seen multiple deaths stemming from sales of illegal drugs to minors and young adults from the same Snapchat drug dealers in Arizona, California and Colorado. When will Snap start to cooperate with law enforcement officials and parents to protect its users and not the members of its Snapchat cartel,” Bergman added.
SMVLC amended the existing complaint to add claims on behalf of the families of Cooper Davis, 16, from Shawnee, Kan.; Fernando Sanchez, 17, from Gilroy, Calif.; Luis Rasmussen, 17, from Tucson, Ariz.; Kevin Ourand, 22, from Rockville, MD.; Kaylie Tallant, 18, from San Tan Valley, Ariz.; Sophia Humphreys, 21, from Renton, Wash.; and Logan Boehmer, 17, from Thornton, Colo. The lawsuit is pending in the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Cooper Davis, 16, from Shawnee, Kansas
Cooper was the fun, adventurous and outgoing kid that everyone loved to be around. He was independent from the moment he could walk, kind-hearted, strong-willed and loved all things water, including water skiing, wakeboarding, and fishing.
His parents, Elizabeth “Libby” and Randall Davis, bought him his first phone when he was 11 years old and restricted Cooper’s ability to download apps, limiting screen time and required him to provide his log in codes so they could monitor his devices. Despite these precautions, Cooper opened his first Snapchat account when he was just 12.
Cooper soon developed a severe addiction to Snapchat and any attempt to restrict his access to the app prompted extreme reactions, including near-physical altercations and sneaking out of his room to take his phone back from his parents. On one occasion, he went so far as to remove the wall vent separating their bedroom from the living room and climbed through the vent passage in the hopes of recovering his device from their room.
On August 29, 2021, Cooper, along with his friends, purchased two Percocet pills from a Snapchat dealer. Each of the boys took half a Percocet, and eventually everyone went home, except for Cooper who went to visit another friend who noticed that something was wrong and alerted his mother. Seeing that Cooper was unresponsive, they called 9-1-1 and started CPR.
First responders and hospital personnel tried everything they could, but ultimately, Libby and Randall had to make the heartbreaking decision to tell them to stop. There was nothing more that could be done.
Cooper died of fentanyl poisoning after taking half of a counterfeit pill he purchased from a drug dealer he met through Snapchat.
Fernando Sanchez, 17, from Gilroy, California.
Fernando was funny, smart and always quick with a comeback. He excelled at school and enjoyed reading, loved to make other people laugh and was someone his friends knew they could trust.
He received his first phone shortly before middle school around age 11 so his mother, Lisa, a single working mother could stay in contact with her son and later opened his Snapchat account without his mother’s knowledge or consent.
By the time he started high school, Fernando’s dependency on Snapchat was so severe that he stopped caring about anything else. Lisa took him to numerous counselors to find the cause of her son’s erratic behavior, but they couldn’t find the cause.
Lisa tried to restrict Fernando’s access to Snapchat by not paying his phone bill in the hopes that the lack of service would help, but Fernando just connected to Snapchat via wi-fi and eventually obtained a second phone which he hid from her.
On March 25, 2020, Fernando purchased what he believed to be Xanax from a Snapchat drug dealer. After taking the counterfeit Xanax pill, he went to a friend’s house and slumped down into a chair. His friend could see that something was wrong and struggled to wake him up. Overhearing what was happening, his friend’s mother came down and immediately started CPR while another family member called 9-1-1. Paramedics rushed Fernando to the hospital, but he died in the ambulance.
Luis Rasmussen, 17, from Tucson, Arizona
Luis was a talented photographer and loved taking photos from an early age. He was a sweet and caring young man who loved spending time with his great grandmother.
His parents, Christopher “Chris” and Shannon Rasmussen bought him his first phone when he was 13 years old so they could stay connected with him. They spoke with him about online safety and responsibility and were not overly concerned when he downloaded Snapchat on his phone given their understanding of that product from Snap’s commercials and ads.
Shortly after he started using Snapchat, Luis started having trouble sleeping at night. His parents took away his phone every night at 9 pm but Luis would take it back when they went to sleep.
Eventually, Snapchat began connecting Luis with drug dealers.
On the morning of October 15, 2020, Shannon walked out of her bedroom and towards her home office when she passed Luis’ room and noticed him sitting on his bed with his back against the wall. His face was blue and he wasn’t moving. She screamed for Chris to call 9-1-1 and began CPR on her son, but it was too late. Luis was already gone.
Luis died from fentanyl poisoning after ingesting what he though was Xanax purchased from a drug dealer he met through Snapchat.
Kevin Ourand, 22, from Rockville, Maryland
Kevin was a happy child, known for his smile and ability to light up a room, as well
as his talent at sports. He competed in basketball, baseball, football, soccer and swim team.
His parents bought him his first cell phone when he was around 12 years old so they could reach him at any time. His mother monitored his phone and installed an app to help keep track of his location. Those efforts never revealed anything concerning or out of the ordinary.
It is believed that Kevin opened his first Snapchat account when he was 13 years old without his parents’ knowledge or consent, and he soon became obsessed with the app.
Snapchat then began connecting drug dealers to Kevin via its public profile settings,
user recommendation algorithm and mapping and location features.
On October 11, 2022, Kevin stayed at his mom’s house because he was scheduled
to have his wisdom teeth pulled the next morning. The dentist had decided to not prescribe
pain medications post-procedure and Kevin was nervous about both the procedure and how he would feel afterwards.
At 7:10 a.m. the next morning, Mike had just arrived at a commercial job site when
his youngest son called him and told him to the get to the house. When he arrived, the house was full of paramedics and Mike learned that his son Kevin was gone.
On October 12, 2022, Kevin died from fentanyl poisoning after taking a counterfeit Percocet laced with deadly amounts of Fentanyl that he purchased from a Snapchat drug dealer.
Kaylie Tallant, 18, from San Tan Valley, Arizona
Kaylie was an independent and strong-willed young woman who enjoyed softball, dance, volleyball, cheer and loved to paint. She was on track to graduate high school early to pursue her dream of studying law at Penn State.
Kaylie was just 10 years old when she opened her first social media account, which she accessed through her iPad. Her mother, Misty Terrigino, discovered the account and told her to close it after explaining that she was not old enough for social media. Misty also installed parental controls on Kaylie’s iPad and began monitoring her devices for any social media use.
When Kaylie was 13, she got her first cell phone, so her mother, a nurse, could check in on her while she was at work.
After a while, Snapchat connected Kaylie with a Snapchat drug dealer.
On April 11, 2021, Kaylie and her family ate dinner together, like they did most evenings. Kaylie then took her computer and said she needed to start her homework. Kaylie was a night owl and liked to do her homework late at night then sleep in.
The next morning, Misty had a nail appointment and texted Kaylie to see if she wanted to join. She assumed Kaylie was still sleeping when she received no response. Around 11 am, Misty headed home to pick up her son for a shopping trip and see if Kaylie wanted to join. She knocked on Kaylie’s door with no response. She tried to open the door, only to find it locked.
Misty began banging on Kaylie’s door, but Kaylie did not respond. She shouted to her son to get something so that they could open the door, which he did, and they found Kaylie lying diagonal on her bed with the laptop open. She was lying face down with her head on her arm, as though she had fallen asleep while doing homework.
Misty and her son called 9-1-1 but Kaylie was already gone. She died on April 12, 2021 of fentanyl poisoning from a counterfeit pill she purchased from a drug dealer she met through Snapchat.
Sophia Humphreys, 21, from Renton, Washington
Sophia had a kind, big heart and volunteered for Children’s Theater where she helped with hair and makeup, allowing her to pursue her passion as a career.
Around June 8, 2021, Snapchat connected Sophia with a dealer and she purchased through Snapchat what she believed to be Percocet.
On June 10, 2021, just two days after she graduated from beauty school, Sophia’s father found her slumped over in her bed, on-responsive.
Police and medical examiners were called to the scene, but, by then, it was too late. The pills Sophia purchased that were believed to be Percocet were laced with lethal doses of Fentanyl. According to police, the Snapchat dealer was connected to another young Snapchat user that died around the same time as Sophia.
Logan Boehmer, 17, from Thornton, Colorado
Logan was a good kid who excelled in school and was interested in athletics.
Prior to starting high school, Logan suffered a shoulder injury, which eventually required surgery. In February of 2019, following a brief period of self-medication and revaluation, Logan committed to turning his life around.
On May 25, 2019, Logan’s parents were woken up by Logan’s friend – Logan was not breathing. They began CPR, but it was too late.
Through connections Snapchat made, Logan purchased what he thought was Xanax, but turned out to be a counterfeit pill laced with Fentanyl. The police did not take his phone, explaining that the chances of them finding enough evidence to pursue the dealer were low. Many police departments have already learned that Snap cannot or will not cooperate.
Two months after his death, a family member provided potential names to authorities. The Snapchat dealer who sold counterfeit Xanax to Logan was likely the same Snapchat dealer who sold counterfeit Percocet to two teen girls in 2020 (one of whom overdosed but survived) and then sold counterfeit Percocet to Max Osterman in 2021, resulting in his death.
The original complaint was filed on behalf of the following victims: SMVLC originally filed the lawsuit on behalf of the families of Michael Stabile, 15, from Coure d’Alene, Idaho; Emily Taylor, 17, from Ottowa, Ill.; Ava Sorenson, 17, from Gilbert, Ariz.; Manuel “Manny” Navarro, 17, from Chino Hills, Calif.; Finale Jaeger, 18, from Scottsdale, Ariz.; Max Osterman, 18, from Thornton, Colo.; Cody Mehlos, 21, from Big Bear Lake, Calif.; and Ciara Gilliam, 22, from Des Moines, Iowa, who all died after taking fentanyl-laced pills sold by Snapchat drug dealers. The lawsuit was originally filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court on January 3, 2023.
Michael Stabile, 15, from Coure d’Alene, Idaho
Michael loved skateboarding, snowboarding, and spending as much time in the outdoors as possible. He had recently been promoted at his job and was doing well in school.
On May 10, 2021, Michael died from fentanyl poisoning after trying a pill he and his friend purchased, out of curiosity, from a drug dealer they met on Snapchat.
He and his friend had never purchased drugs before and believed that they were purchasing four Percocet. Instead, the pills provided via Snapchat and the dealer contained deadly doses of fentanyl.
Michael’s family performed CPR and paramedics tried to resuscitate him, but it was too late.
Emily Taylor, 17, from Ottawa, Ill.
Emily loved animals and wanted to be a nurse when she grew up. She was funny and outgoing and loved to dance.
In February of 2021, Emily was staying with her father in Michigan, when Snapchat connected her to a local Snapchat drug dealer, KashinQuae. Using Snapchat’s direct messaging and other product features, Emily purchased what she believed to be Percocet but, instead, received pills laced with fatal doses of fentanyl.
On February 28, 2021, Emily’s boyfriend picked her up in Michigan and drove with her back to Illinois, where she resided with her mother. They did not go back to her mother’s house right away, however; instead, on March 3, 2021, Emily took one of the fentanyl-laced pills. She became unconscious, was resuscitated by paramedics, but ultimately was taken off life support on March 5, 2021.
Days before her death, Emily and her mother were planning her high school graduation party.
Ava Sorenson, 17, from Gilbert, Ariz.
Ava was a happy kid, stubborn and headstrong, but always smiling and loyal and dedicated friend.
In October of 2022, Snapchat connected Ava to a Snapchat dealer who offered to sell her Oxycodone.
Late in the evening on Wednesday, October 12, 2022, Ava gave her mom a hug, told her she loved her and that she was excited for school the next day, then headed to bed. Ava’s alarm went off at 7:30 a.m. the next morning, but Ava was not turning it off, so her mother went to wake her up.
When her mother opened Ava’s door, she found her daughter on the bed, with the covers gone, and foam coming out of her mouth. She began chest compressions on her child while her husband called 9-1-1. The paramedics tried everything to resuscitate Ava, but nothing worked, and they were never able to get a rhythm.
On October 13, 2022, Ava died of fentanyl poisoning from drugs bought and sold through Snapchat.
Manuel “Manny” Navarro, 17, from Chino Hills, Calif.
Manny enjoyed playing video games and wanted to be a video game programmer when he grew up.
In May of 2021, Manny had surgery on his collar bone after a skateboarding accident, which resulted in significant pain and discomfort. He was then connected by Snapchat to a Snapchat dealer, via tools like Snap’s public profile and user location features, and the Snapchat dealer offered to sell him pain medication.
On or around June 1, 2021, Manny purchased what he believed to be a Percocet but that was, instead, a counterfeit Percocet containing deadly amounts of fentanyl. Manny died on June 1, 2021.
Finale Jaeger, 18, from Scottsdale, Ariz.
Finale was a bright, exciting, and colorful child, full of life and able to light up any room with her smile and laughter.
She was suffering from knee pain, which prevented her from doing gymnastics. There was a corrective surgery, but Finale had to wait until she was 18 – which she did.
At the end of October 2021, Finale had the procedure to fix her knee. Afterwards, she was in excruciating pain, such that she was transported back to the hospital for pain control and was released with a prescription for pain medication. But the pain persisted.
Snapchat then connected Finale to a Snapchat dealer, and she purchased what she believed to be a Percocet, but that was actually a pill laced with deadly amounts of fentanyl.
On December 7, 2021, Finale hugged her mother goodnight, and by morning she was gone. Finale died of fentanyl poisoning sometime between December 7 and December 8, 2021, after taking a counterfeit Percocet purchased and sold through Snapchat.
Max Osterman, 18, from Thornton, Colo.
Max was a kind and intelligent person, who dreamt of working on Wall Street.
On February 3, 2021, Max died of fentanyl poisoning after taking a pill sold to him by Snapchat dealer, Sergio, which, he believed to be Percocet but contained lethal amounts of fentanyl instead.
Police provided Snap with a preservation notice on February 9, 2021, then served an Order for Production of Records on March 8, 2021. Instead of cooperating, Snap waited more than two months then required law enforcement to restart the process and re-serve, claiming that the use of “/” in the Order was ambiguous. A second Order was issued in November 2021, and it took Snap only a few days to respond; however, by that time, Snap’s delay already had contributed to loss of evidence and the decision to not pursue criminal charges against the Snapchat dealer.
Police reports from February of 2021 describe two other teen deaths in the same area via counterfeit pills, a 17-year-old boy and an 18-year-old boy, both of which also involved Snapchat.
Moreover, this particular Snapchat dealer had been connected in 2020 to the overdose of a 17-year-old girl (who survived) and, as of July 7, 2022, he appeared to still have a Snapchat account.
Cody Mehlos, 21, from Big Bear Lake, Calif.
Cody was outgoing, enjoyed helping others, and dreamt of being an entrepreneur.
On January 1, 2021, Cody communicated with a dealer he met on Snapchat. Cody is believed to have purchased four pills from the Snapchat dealer, which he thought were Percocet.
On January 2, 2021, Cody’s girlfriend called his mother to report that he had never shown up at work. Cody’s mother checked his apartment and found her son’s lifeless body on his bed.
The paramedics confirmed that there was nothing they could do, as it was too late to try to bring him back. Police also found a bag in Cody’s room containing three M-30 pills. Cody had taken a pill purchased from the Snapchat dealer, pressed to look like Percocet, but containing lethal doses of fentanyl.
Ciara Gilliam, 22, from Des Moines, Iowa
Ciara was a happy and outgoing person. She was close with her parents and able to make friends everywhere she went.
In August of 2021, Snapchat connected Ciara to a Snapchat dealer. This is someone Ciara did not know, and with whom she would not have connected but for Snapchat and its various product features and tools.
On August 23, 2022, Ciara’s parents received a message from her boyfriend asking if they had heard from her. They had not yet heard from her that day, so Ciara’s parents tried calling but their calls went straight to voicemail, so they called Ciara’s grandmother and her husband and asked them to check on her.
Ciara didn’t answer her door, but her bedroom window was known for not locking, so her grandparents tried the window, which is when they found Ciara dead on her bedroom floor.
Ciara had talked with her mother on August 22, 2022, via Facetime, then talked with a friend until almost 10:00 p.m. Then, because she couldn’t sleep, she took a single pill from a dealer to whom Snapchat connected her believing it to be a Xanax; but it was laced with lethal doses of fentanyl instead.
About the Social Media Victims Law Center
The Social Media Victims Law Center (SMVLC), socialmediavictims.org, was founded in 2021 to hold social media companies legally accountable for the harm they inflict on vulnerable users. SMVLC seeks to apply principles of product liability to force social media companies to elevate consumer safety to the forefront of its economic analysis and design safer platforms to protect users from foreseeable harm.
About Matthew P. Bergman
Matthew P. Bergman is an attorney, law professor, philanthropist and community activist who has recovered over $1 billion on behalf of his clients. He is the founder of the Social Media Victims Law Center and Bergman Draper Oslund Udo law firm; a professor at Lewis & Clark Law School; and serves on the board of directors of nonprofit institutions in higher education, national security, civil rights, worker protection and the arts.
If your child or young family member has suffered from serious depression, chronic eating disorder, hospitalization, sexual exploitation, self-harm, or suicide as a result of their social media use, speak to us today for a no-cost legal consultation.