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News / Health / Clark County Health

Camas family sues Amazon over teen son’s death by suicide

15-year-old died after using chemical product he bought from retailer

By Becca Robbins, Columbian staff reporter
Published: January 26, 2024, 6:06am

The family of a Camas teen who died by suicide after ingesting a chemical compound he purchased on Amazon is suing the online retailer for wrongful death.

The lawsuit, filed in September in King County Superior Court, states 15-year-old Tyler Schmidt purchased the substance — used as a food preservative — from Amazon in November 2020. It alleges Tyler viewed pro-suicide websites, which directed him to Amazon to purchase the chemical. The company did not require any age verification when Tyler purchased the product, according to the lawsuit.

Amazon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

On Dec. 14, 2020, Tyler went for a walk after school and didn’t return home that night. His family searched the area and notified police. Two days later, his body was found with an empty vial nearby. Officials determined the chemical compound caused his death, according to the lawsuit.

The suit alleges Amazon was negligent and violated the Consumer Protection Act. It claims the company is liable for promoting and aiding the teen’s suicide.

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“Had (the chemical compound) not been available on Amazon.com for purchase by a minor — without parental permission or age verification, and with prompt delivery — Tyler Schmidt would not have died by suicide,” the lawsuit states. “Instead, Amazon sold the lethal product.”

The lawsuit also alleges the compound’s purity of 99.6 percent has no household use, and its main use, as an ingredient in curing salts, would be used at 6 percent purity.

“Besides its legitimate uses in laboratories for research purposes and in medical facilities for highly specific treatments, (the chemical compound) can be used as a meat preservative to prevent the growth of toxins,” the suit states. “However, even in food preservation, (it) is not used in pure form.”

The suit points to another instance of a teen dying after ingesting the compound he purchased from Amazon. It states that in 2020, that teen’s mother exchanged messages with the company, and customer service representatives assured her they were taking her complaint seriously.

Other online retailers, such as eBay and Etsy, have removed the compound from their sites, according to the suit.

“Amazon knew or should have known that it was profiting off vulnerable minors contemplating self-harm,” the lawsuit states.

The family is seeking damages to be determined at trial and an injunction banning Amazon from selling the product to minors.