Washington Family Files Lawsuit Against Amazon for Negligent Sale of Sodium Nitrite Used in Teen’s Death

Feb 02, 2024

CAMAS, WA – A Washington family has brought a lawsuit against Amazon for its negligence in selling sodium nitrite—a known suicide chemical with no ordinary household use—to minors, which resulted in the death of their 15-year-old son. The family is represented by Kaitlin Cherf, Rebecca Roe, and Colin Mieling of the Seattle law firm Schroeter Goldmark & Bender, P.S.; Corrie Yackulic of Corrie Yackulic Law Firm, PLLC; and Carrie Goldberg and Naomi Leeds with C.A. Goldberg, PLLC.

According to the lawsuit, since at least 2018, Amazon was made aware that individuals, including children, were buying high-purity sodium nitrite from Amazon’s website for the purpose of dying by suicide. Ingestion of minute amounts of sodium nitrite can cause unconsciousness and death within 20 minutes. The chemical is infamously known for being utilized in suicides, especially by vulnerable teenagers, and has no ordinary household use. Despite this, Amazon continued to sell the product until as recently as 2022, the suit states.

In 2020, two years after Amazon was alerted of the usage of their sodium nitrite in suicides, a Camas, Washington family lost their 15-year-old son, Tyler Schmidt. Tyler, a minor, was able to create an account on Amazon, without any age restriction in place to bar his access, and purchase 99.6% pure Loudwolf brand sodium nitrite. He used the chemical to end his life on December 14, 2020.

“The bottom line is that Tyler’s death was preventable. A company as profitable and powerful as Amazon knows enough about its users and how to influence their purchases to know when it is selling a suicide drug to a child,” said Schroeter Goldmark & Bender attorney Kaitlin Cherf. “If a 15-year-old cannot buy cough syrup at the drugstore, they should not be able to buy a suicide drug online. Amazon intentionally ignored grieving families’ warnings about sodium nitrite being used in suicides, and instead prioritized their own profits and sales above human lives.”

This suit is one of several actions brought against Amazon by Carrie Goldberg and Naomi Leeds of C.A. Goldberg, PLLC. For the past three years, the Goldberg firm has represented approximately 20 families across the country who have lost loved ones to Amazon-supplied sodium nitrite. The number of decedents represented in these cases continues to contribute to the incredible amount of knowledge Amazon had regarding the use of sodium nitrite by vulnerable individuals to die by suicide.

In September 2020, over two months before Schmidt’s death, Amazon’s customer service department exchanged dozens of messages with the mother of a 16-year-old boy who purchased sodium nitrite on Amazon to die by suicide. The mother alerted the global online retailer of the dangers of distributing the chemical, yet Amazon continued to do so in the United States—despite being legally required to ban sales of sodium nitrite in other countries because of its known dangers.

The suit alleges that other reviews of the product similarly warned about instances where reviewers’ family members purchased the chemical to end their lives, yet the product remained available.

“No parent should have to endure this, especially when this tragedy could have been prevented,” said Michelle Stickley, mother of Tyler Schmidt. “Losing your child is a parent’s worst nightmare, and now our reality. Had Amazon taken simple steps to make it more difficult for children to obtain this deadly chemical, Tyler would still be here. We must hold Amazon accountable to prevent this from happening to other families.”

The suit describes that although Amazon possesses tremendous amounts of data about its users and sophisticated algorithms to push product sales, the company does not implement an age verification requirement in its account creation process, which specifically harms vulnerable populations like youth with suicidal ideation.

The complaint further outlines that Amazon featured products alongside sodium nitrite designed to aid individuals in suicide completion, including Tagamet acid reducer—to prevent the body’s natural response to induce vomiting—scales, and a handbook that provided instructions for how to die by suicide.

“This lawsuit is about raising awareness of this terrifying risk of Amazon’s business model, and pursuing accountability for Amazon’s negligence, in order to prevent other families from ever having to endure the same experience as Tyler’s did,” Cherf added.