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Social Media Victims Law Center files wrongful death lawsuit against Meta Platforms, Inc. and Snap, Inc.

16-year-old boy dies playing Russian Roulette on Snapchat after being exposed to dangerous content

TAMPA – August 4, 2022 – The Social Media Victims Law Center (SMVLC), a legal resource for parents of children harmed by social media addiction and abuse, today announced that it has filed a lawsuit against Meta Platforms, Inc. and Snap, Inc. for the wrongful death of 16-year-old Ian James Ezquerra of New Port Richey, Fla. 

The lawsuit alleges Meta Platform’s Instagram and Snap, Inc.’s Snapchat applications caused Ian James Ezquerra to become addicted to their products resulting in emotional harm, which contributed to the wrongful death of Ian, as well as foreseeable harms to his mother, Jennifer Mitchell.

According to the lawsuit, Meta and Snap’s dangerous and defective social media products led to the addiction, anxiety, depression, and ultimately to Ian’s death. On August 14, 2019, Ian died while filming and posting videos of himself on Snapchat playing a dangerous game known as Russian Roulette.

“Social media companies like Meta Platforms and Snap continue to put profits over people by knowingly creating products that addict its users,” said Matthew P. Bergman, founding attorney of SMVLC. “These applications and their algorithms are designed to addict its users and push content that impacts those most vulnerable and impressionable, our children.  Unless they are held accountable, children will continue to suffer injuries, and worse, death.

Ian James Ezquerra (November 21, 2006 – August 13, 2019)

Case 8:22-cv-1759 – U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division

While in middle school, Ian James Ezquerra opened Instagram and Snapchat accounts without his mother’s knowledge or consent. Initially, his mother, Jennifer Mitchell, wasn’t overly concerned with him having an Instagram account as she had a Facebook account herself and understood, based on Meta’s representations to the public, that these were safe platforms aimed and designed for teenagers to use. 

Over time, Ian became addicted to Instagram and Snapchat with their “like” and “streak” features and instant gratifications, resulting in sleep deprivation, anxiety, depression, anger, and outbursts. Instagram and Snapchat directed Ian to connections, groups, and content that were harmful and inappropriate for a child of his age. The dangerous content included videos and groups glorifying danger and self-harm, including but not limited to things like the deadly game of Russian Roulette.

In his final three videos posted on Snapchat, Ian is seen holding a revolver with a single bullet; he spins the chamber, puts it to his head, and pulls the trigger. The fourth video was never posted. Ian died of a single gunshot wound to the head playing Russian Roulette, the “game” he was introduced to on Snapchat.

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.