A US judge has dismissed a lawsuit against Amazon.com Inc brought by the parents of two teenagers who committed suicide by consuming sodium nitrite they bought on the online retailer's platform.
US District Judge James Robart in Seattle on Tuesday rejected claims by the parents of Ethan McCarthy and Kristine Jónsson that Amazon was liable for negligence and violating Washington state product liability laws.
What are 'suicide kits'?
The parents sought unspecified damages from Amazon for letting an outside vendor sell sodium nitrite at 99.6% purity, which they labeled "suicide kits," to their children, saying it was known the chemical would likely be used for suicide.
Police found Jónsson, 16, of Hilliard, Ohio, dead in her mother's car in Sept. 2020 while McCarthy, 17, of Milton, West Virginia, died in his bed the following January.
In a 34-page decision, Robart said the product label for the sodium nitrite identified the dangers of using the chemical, which is sometimes used in cured meats.
He said Amazon had no duty to provide additional warnings, which in this case would not have prevented the deaths, and that Washington law preempted the negligence claims.
"Kristine and Ethan's fates were undisputedly tragic, but the court can only conclude that they necessarily knew the dangers of bodily injury and death associated with ingesting sodium nitrite," Robart wrote.
Carrie Goldberg, a lawyer for the parents, in a statement on Wednesday called the decision a "setback" but "hardly the end of the road" for the case.
"There are no household uses for sodium nitrite and no consumer, let alone children, could reasonably know how lethal it was," she said. "In Washington State it is against the law to aid in suicide and that's exactly what Amazon did."
Amazon, based in Seattle, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The case is McCarthy et al v Amazon.com Inc, US District Court, Western District of Washington, No. 23-00263.