Kratom Maker Ordered to Pay $11.6 Million in Woman's Death

The judge based the amount on tobacco case settlements.

Grow LLC, also known as KD Inc. and The Kratom Distro, and Sean Michael Harder were ordered to pay $4.6 million in economic and $7 million in non-economic damages to the family of Krystal Talavera, who died in 2021 after ingesting kratom. Law360 reported that the judge felt the original request of $20 million was too high and instead based his decision on previous tobacco cases.

“There is no doubt that this is a tragic case and that Ms. Talavera’s children loved their mother,” the judge said. “Yet when placed alongside the long line of wrongful death actions in Florida, particularly tobacco cases where the survivors tend to have witnessed their loved ones suffer a long and painful death, an award of $20 million is not reasonable.”

The judge awarded $7 million in non-economic damages assigning $2 million for each of Talavera’s three minor children and $1 million for her adult son Devin Filippelli. Filippelli described his mother as being the nucleus of the family. She was the person that brought everyone together, Filippelli explained. The children have been characterized as being traumatized by the loss of the mother, with her ex-husband stating they have trouble sleeping and attending summer camp due to their grief.

Harder packaged, shipped, and distributed Kratom products to Talavera directly from his home in Idaho. He accepted payment for and has profited from the importation, distribution, marketing, and sale of GROW LLC’s Kratom products, according to the complaint.

Kratom is not FDA-approved, and the case stated that Kratom has serious health risks including abuse, dependence, addiction, overdose, and death. Scientific literature documents serious concerns regarding the toxicity of Kratom in multiple organ systems.

Talavera was described as a registered nurse at a hospice in West Palm Beach. The case stated that she had been introduced to kratom by friends and thought it was a safe and natural supplement with health benefits. The day prior to her death she celebrated the high school graduation of her son Devin.

The case stated that Talavera regularly purchased and consumed “Space Dust,” “Green Maeng Da,” “Green Horned Maeng Da,” and “Green Riau” Kratom from GROW and Harder, under the belief that Kratom was a safe dietary supplement with several health benefits.

The day she died, she was preparing a Father’s Day breakfast for her partner Biagio Vultaggio, who was the father of her youngest child. Vultaggio said he found her unconscious and lying face down on the floor next to a cup of hot coffee and an open bag of “Space Dust,” one of the kratom products sold by the Kratom Distro. He called the paramedics, who took her to the hospital where she was pronounced dead.

An autopsy was performed, and the Palm Beach County Coroner determined the cause of death was “acute mitragynine intoxication. At high concentrations, mitragynine produces opioid-like effects, such as respiratory failure.”

Law360 reported that the Kratom Distro had previously defended itself in the lawsuit until March, when it consented to a default judgment because of a financial inability to defend the action.

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Debra Borchardt

Debra Borchardt is the Co-Founder, and Executive Editor of GMR. She has covered the cannabis industry for several years at Forbes, Seeking Alpha and TheStreet. Prior to becoming a financial journalist, Debra was a Vice President at Bear Stearns where she held a Series 7 and Registered Investment Advisor license. Debra has a Master's degree in Business Journalism from New York University.

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