CA Judge Allows Lawsuit Against Snap, Inc. Over Children’s Fentanyl Purchases

On January 2, 2024, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lawrence P. Riff ruled that a lawsuit brought on by parents alleging their children obtained illegal drugs through Snapchat could proceed to trial. This ruling comes after Snapchat’s parent company Snap, Inc. tried to get the lawsuit dismissed.

A few weeks later, on January 24, Snap, Inc.’s request to have some of the complaints in the lawsuit thrown out was denied. The complaint brought against Snap, Inc. is for wrongful death, negligence, and product liability. The lawsuit says the Snapchat platform allowed drug dealers to market and distribute drugs to children, teens, and young adults.

Plaintiffs: The Families of Teens and Young Adults Who Overdosed on Fentanyl

The lawsuit’s lead plaintiffs are the parents of Alexander Neville. Neville was a resident of Orange County, California, who died from a fentanyl overdose at age 14.

The Neville parents say their teenage son bought a counterfeit pill from a drug dealer on Snapchat and even after Alexander’s death from fentanyl became public, the dealer’s account remained active on Snapchat for almost a year. Two other deaths are linked to this same Snapchat account, according to the lawsuit.

When first filed, the lawsuit represented the families of more than 60 teens and young adults who accessed fentanyl through Snapchat and subsequently overdosed. As time has gone on, more family members who have had the same experience have joined the lawsuit.

In almost all of the Snapchat fentanyl deaths, the teens or young adults thought they were buying prescription pills such as Percocet, Xanax, or Oxycontin. Instead, they purchased counterfeit pills that contained fentanyl. These counterfeit pills took the lives of almost all of the children.

Social Media Drug Trafficking Threat

For years now, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and other government agencies have warned about the threat of drug traffickers on social media platforms.

This threat spans across the entire nation regardless of whether it be a rural, suburban, or urban community. According to the DEA’s website, the “DEA has directly connected social media drug sales to overdose deaths.”

No one understands this more fully than the family members who have lost loved ones in this manner.

Snapchat Design Features Make It Appealing to Drug Dealers

There are specific features unique to Snapchat that make the app a desirable drug dealing platform. The most prominent being:

  • Disappearing messaging makes it so parents cannot monitor the content and makes it difficult for law enforcement to investigate.
  • Snap Maps allow Snapchat users to share and view their locations with each other.

What Can Parents Do to Protect Their Kids?

Parents have always had a considerable amount to worry about when it comes to protecting their children from harm. However, the speed with which technology advances—specifically social media—makes it substantially more challenging to keep up.

The lawyers representing the parents in the case against Snap, Inc. are from the Social Media Victims Law Center. Their website offers several resources for parents to help them:

  • Learn how social media platforms work.
  • Minimize the risks for their children.
  • Recognize the warning signs of poor mental health.

If you are concerned about the mental health or substance use of a child, teen, or young adult in your life, treatment is available. Please reach out for help.

In the case of a fentanyl overdose, or overdose from another opioid, having life-saving naloxone available can reverse opioid overdose symptoms. Naloxone is available across the U.S. and can be obtained from several places in Orange County.

About Laguna Treatment in Southern California

At Laguna Treatment—a drug and alcohol rehab in Orange County—we provide treatment for adults suffering from co-occurring mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression and substance use disorder.

One of our sister facilities in Texas, Greenhouse Treatment Center, offers a Renewed Purpose addiction treatment track. This track is a specialized program for young adult men between the ages of 18 and 27.

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