Caffeine kills: Amazon sued in Ohio teen’s overdose

Reuters / Paul Hackett
The parents of an Ohio high-school student who overdosed on caffeine powder last May have filed a lawsuit against Amazon and the powder’s manufacturer, claiming they failed to provide suitable warnings. Doctors caution that people can overdose with ease.

Dennis and Katie Stiner of LaGrange, Ohio claim the online retailer sold the Hard Rhino caffeine powder to a classmate of their son. Logan Stiner, 18, was found dead inside the family home last May, after consuming the powder. Medical examination declared the cause of death to be “cardiac arrhythmia and seizure caused by acute caffeine toxicity.”

Amazon has declined to comment on the lawsuit, but the company did stop selling Hard Rhino after another man died in Georgia last summer.

Parents should be aware that these products may be attractive to young people,” the Food and Drug Agency said in an advisory issued, in December 2014, urging consumers to “avoid powdered pure caffeine” as it is “nearly impossible to accurately measure” a proper dosage at home.

You are talking a really small margin of error,” Dr. Scott Kahan, Director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington, DC, told RT’s Manila Chan. Kahan added that the agency could not ban the powder, as by law it lacks authority to regulate dietary supplements.

According to consumer advocacy site CaffeineInformer, the Hard Rhino powder can contain over 4700 miligrams of caffeine in a teaspoon. By comparison, a standard 16-oz coffee cup has around 320mg.

While the Stiners acknowledge the Hard Rhino label warned the powder “can be dangerous if abused” and that “failure to follow safety guidelines can result in serious injury or death,” their lawsuit claims the label lacked specific instructions on proper use.

The difference between life and death is a pinch and a smidgen,” the family’s lawyer, Brian Balser told AP on Friday.

In addition to naming the classmate alleged to have shared Hard Rhino with Logan Stiner, and the Arizona-based companies that package the powder, the lawsuit also seeks compensation from Amazon. The retailer’s team of compliance specialists should have reviewed the product before allowing it to be sold, the lawsuit said.

The Stiners are asking for at least $25,000 in damages.