Dad collapsed at dinner and died. The family’s lawsuit blames kratom

A Georgia father died after mixing kratom in his drink, his family's wrongful death lawsuit says.

A Georgia father died after mixing kratom in his drink, his family’s wrongful death lawsuit says.

Mctlaw

A father sat down to his last meal with his wife and son after mixing a commercially available supplement – kratom – into his orange juice, according to his family.

At the dinner table, Peter McPherson began shaking before collapsing and falling unconscious in Georgia on November 19, 2020, lawyers representing his family at mctlaw say. His wife and son tried to revive him before he was taken to a nearby hospital in Chatsworth, a town about 85 miles north of Atlanta, and pronounced dead.

The Gordon County coroner ruled that McPherson died of “acute toxicity from mitragynine (kratom),” according to a new wrongful death lawsuit filed by the Gwinnett County family.

Now the family is suing the makers, distributors and sellers of the specific kratom product McPherson was ingesting before his death, “Expert Kratom” powder, saying they are to blame, a complaint says.

“Peter and I dreamed of growing old together and playing with our grandchildren,” his widow Kasandra McPherson told McClatchy News in a Dec. 12 statement. “Those dreams are replaced with sadness and emptiness.”

“I just hope others don’t have to go through what we went through because of kratom,” added McPherson.

McClatchy News contacted Expert Botanicals, which makes Expert kratom powder and is named as one of the defendants, for comment on December 12 and did not immediately receive a response.

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This provided photo shows the kratom product used by Peter McPherson prior to his death, according to attorney Talis Abolins. Talis Abolins

Kratom, often sold as a dietary or herbal supplement, is growing in popularity in the United States and was responsible for the deaths of 91 people from July 2016 to December 2017, according to a 2019 report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What is Kratom?

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This file photo dated September 27, 2017 shows kratom capsules in Albany, NY Mary Esch AP

Mitragyna speciosa, or kratom, is a plant native to Southeast Asia that is not approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA says it can expose those who consume it to “risks of addiction, abuse, and dependency,” and is warning against using it after receiving “worrying reports” about its safety.

In smaller doses, kratom can produce stimulant effects, according to the CDC. When taken in higher doses, it can produce opioid-like effects.

“The kratom industry has become so profitable that they are following the example of the big tobacco companies and hiring lobbyists to work to keep the kratom market open for business,” said Mctlaw’s attorney Talis Abolins, who is handling the McPhersons lawsuit family, told McClatchy News in a statement Dec. 12.

“Consumers need to be warned that kratom is unsafe and has never been approved for human consumption,” added Abolins.

The lawsuit

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This undated photo shows Peter McPherson. mctlaw

McPherson was 43 years old when he died after taking kratom, according to his obituary.

Under Georgian law, every kratom sold in the state must have a label with information about the product, including any “cautions” about its safety.

The defendants named in the lawsuit are accused of marketing and selling kratom products “based on unproven and misleading claims about their safety and ability to cure, treat or prevent any ailment or disease,” the complaint states.

The kratom product McPherson consumed, Expert Kratom, lacked safety warnings about its potential risks of abuse, dependency, addiction, overdose and death, according to the complaint.

Additionally, it was marketed as a “safe and effective alternative to prescription anxiety and/or pain medication,” the complaint said.

If McPherson had been properly warned of the potential safety risks, he “would not have consumed the toxic levels of mitragynine that ultimately killed him,” the complaint said.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants failed to comply with Georgia law in the sale and marketing of their kratom products and were negligent on a number of counts.

It calls for a jury trial.

Kasandra McPherson told McClatchy News her husband’s death is making the holidays “extra tough”.

“Peter was an only child and it had a huge impact on his parents,” she said. “His granddaughter Evelyn will never meet her grandfather!”

Abolins, the family attorney, said: “While nothing will bring Peter McPherson back, his family hopes the truth about kratom can be shared so these tragedies can be stopped.”

According to a Dec. 12 press release, attorneys for mctlaw have filed kratom-related wrongful death lawsuits in five different states.

Ultimately, scientists are still trying to fully understand kratom because research on the drug is “relatively new,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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Julia Marnin is a McClatchy National Real-Time reporter covering the Southeast and Northeast while based in New York. She is a graduate of the College of New Jersey and joined McClatchy in 2021. She has previously written for Newsweek, Modern Luxury, Gannett and others.

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