Dad collapsed at dinner table before dying. Family’s lawsuit blames supplement Kratom

A father sat down and had his last meal with his wife and son after mixing a supplement sold in stores — kratom — into his orange juice, according to his family.

While at the dinner table, Peter McPherson began shaking before collapsing and becoming unconscious in Georgia on Nov. 19, 2020, attorneys representing his family at mctlaw say. His wife and son tried performing CPR on him before he was taken to a nearby hospital in Chatsworth, a city about 85 miles north of Atlanta, and pronounced dead.

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

Now the family is suing the manufacturers, distributors and sellers of the specific kratom product McPherson took before he died, “Expert Kratom” powder, and says they are to blame, a complaint states.

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

“I only hope that others won’t go through what we have had to suffer because of kratom,” McPherson added.

McClatchy News contacted Expert Botanicals, which makes Expert Kratom powder and is named as one of the defendants, for comment on Dec. 12 and didn’t immediately receive a response.

This provided photo shows the kratom product Peter McPherson consumed before he died, according to attorney Talis Abolins.
This provided photo shows the kratom product Peter McPherson consumed before he died, according to attorney Talis Abolins.

Kratom, often sold as a dietary or herbal supplement, is becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. and was responsible for the deaths of 91 people from July 2016 to December 2017, according to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2019.

What is kratom?

This Sept. 27, 2017 file photo shows kratom capsules in Albany, N.Y.
This Sept. 27, 2017 file photo shows kratom capsules in Albany, N.Y.

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

The FDA says it can expose those who consume it to “risks of addiction, abuse and dependence,” and warns against using it after receiving “concerning reports” regarding its safety.

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

“The kratom industry has become so profitable that they are following the lead of big tobacco, hiring lobbyists who are working to keep the kratom market open for business,” attorney Talis Abolins of Mctlaw, which represents McPherson’s family’s lawsuit, told McClatchy News in a statement on Dec. 12.

“Consumers need to be warned that kratom is not safe, and they have never been approved for human consumption,” Abolins added.

The lawsuit

This undated photo shows Peter McPherson.
This undated photo shows Peter McPherson.

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

Under Georgia law, any Kratom sold in the state is required to have a label declaring information about the product, including any “precautionary statements” about its safety.

The defendants named in the lawsuit are accused of marketing and selling kratom products “based upon unproven and deceptive claims about its safety and ability to cure, treat or prevent medical conditions and diseases,” the complaint states.

The kratom product McPherson consumed, Expert Kratom, lacked safety warnings about its potential risks of abuse, dependence, 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 states.

If McPherson was properly warned about the potential safety risks, he “would not have consumed the toxic levels of mitragynine that ultimately killed him,” according to the complaint.

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of not abiding by Georgia law in selling and marketing its Kratom products and negligence on several counts.

It demands a trial by jury.

Kasandra McPherson told McClatchy News the death of her husband makes the holidays “especially hard.”

“Peter was an only child and it has affected his parents tremendously,” she said. “His granddaughter Evelyn will never get to know her grandfather!”

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

Attorneys at mctlaw have filed wrongful death lawsuits in connection with kratom in five different states, according to a Dec. 12 news release.

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

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