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A law firm has filed two lawsuits related to the deaths of young people who died by suicide after purchasing concentrated sodium nitrite and other products on Amazon.
Content warning: This article mentions graphic descriptions of suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling, please call the 988 Suicide & Crisis hotline and/or review these other resources.
Amazon has faced scrutiny and litigation over selling forms of sodium nitrite on its platform that have been used in the suicides of dozens of young people.
In late September, law firm C.A. Goldberg sued Amazon and the manufacturer and online vendor of the chemical, Loudwolf, for the wrongful death of two teenagers.
The firm’s founder, Carrie Goldberg, brought up the lawsuits in a viral Twitter thread last week that also claimed CBS news canceled a segment on the subject. (C.A. Goldberg referred to the thread when asked for comment. CBS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
“There is no exception in the law that allows for corporate-assisted suicide,” she wrote in the thread.
Last Friday, CBS cancelled a segment about our clients suing Amazon for selling suicide kits to their now deceased kids. CBS’ cowardice gave me renewed clarity about how urgent this litigation is. @naomi_leeds 1/
Goldberg’s company filed its first suit against Amazon in February along with trial firm Fury Duarte. The suit seeks punitive damages for the families and for the court to hold Amazon and Loudwolf liable for their deaths.
The document outlines an e-commerce and internet horror show that made it easy for young people to end their lives, from finding out the method on online blogs, using two-day shipping to obtain the product, suggested products that aid in the suicide, and reviews asking parents to rate the product after their child had died.
“Shoppers on Amazon can just as easily click to purchase Sodium Nitrite as they can batteries, pistachio nuts, or toilet paper,” the more recent lawsuit reads.
Sodium nitrite can be used in very small concentrations in the meat curing process.
However, the chemical “as a suicide method appears to be gaining popularity, spurred by online suicide blogs and an easily obtainable product,” according to a 2021 article from the journal Toxicology Communications.
Both suits claim Amazon has removed one-star reviews that families have left attempting to warn others or banned families from leaving reviews after they left one-star ones for the product.
A 2021 New York Times investigation found that sodium nitrite was one of the “most discussed” suicide methods on an online media and discussion site (not named in the story to avoid boosting its popularity) and was linked to the deaths of 45 people.
Other lawsuits have been filed, and in February, Congress sent Amazon CEO Andy Jassy a letter on the sodium nitrite issue. An Amazon spokesperson told Entrepreneur the company has responded to the inquiry, though no details were provided.
The most recent suit focuses on the deaths of a 16- and 17-year-old from Ohio and West Virginia who both used Amazon to purchase sodium nitrite.
“They know it’s killing people,” Ruth Scott, parent of the 27-year-old from the February lawsuit, told the Times in February. “They are fully aware. They just don’t care.”
Loudwolf, which is named as a defendant in the more recent suit, did not respond to a request for comment.
Amazon’s statement added when people search “suicide” on the platform, a banner with the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline appears.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones personally affected by suicide,” the spokesperson added.
“Customer safety is a top priority at Amazon… Sodium nitrite is a legal and widely-available product offered by retailers to preserve foods, such as meats and fish, and for use in laboratories as a reagent. Sodium nitrite is not intended for consumption, and unfortunately, like many products, it can be misused.”
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