Tyler’s Law passes Senate committee: progress on new sodium nitrite law for California
If you may be at risk of suicide, it’s very important to reach out to someone immediately. In the USA call 988 for 24/7, free, and confidential support. Help is available, right now: find resources here, including an interactive tool to help you find the support that is right for you. If you are in immediate danger or think someone is at risk of harm, contact your local emergency services.
The California Legislature, led by CA Assembly Members Damon Connolly and Ash Kalra, are pushing forward a strong criminal bill outlawing the sale of deadly sodium nitrite to minors, requiring age verification for purchase, and ordering warning labels.
Yesterday in Sacramento, Assembly Bill (AB) 1109 and Assembly Bill (AB) 1210 were passed successfully out of the Senate Business Professions and Economic Development Committee with bipartisan support.
AB 1109 and AB 1210 address the escalating teen suicides linked to the dangerous chemical sodium nitrite. AB1109 would prohibit sales of sodium nitrite to minors and prohibit the sale of sodium nitrite in concentrations greater than 10% to a person over 18. AB 1210 requires online marketplaces to use warning labels describing the fatal repercussions of ingesting the chemical and recommend the proper treatment if the product is consumed.
AB 1109 will require retailers and online marketplaces to implement age verification systems – sellers cannot just have a teen click a box to say they’re 18+ – we are confident that this would serve to create a higher barrier to access of this deadly compound for both vulnerable kids and adults.
Why does California need a sodium nitrite law?
Amazon is the number one vendor of sodium nitrite for death by suicide, even trace amounts of which can cause excruciating death in twenty minutes. Since at least 2018, Amazon has received notifications from grieving relatives and toxicologists that its sodium nitrite killed their family members. In February 2021, C.A. Goldberg, PLLC was introduced to Ruth Scott, mother of Mikael Scott who tragically died from sodium nitrite at age 27. In April, on behalf of Ruth, we notified Amazon that it was selling a product touted on suicide message boards as a quick, easy, and cheap way to die. Instead of removing it from their shelf, Amazon doubled down, hiring lawyers who said they had no duty to stop selling sodium nitrite because it was the consumer’s fault if they chose to use a product for self-harm. Starting with Ruth’s case, C.A. Goldberg, PLLC’s cases against Amazon for selling sodium nitrite bought this issue to the attention of lawmakers. The problem went under-detected and unheard by medical experts and coroners. Online retailers were aware but didn’t care. The issue was finally exposed through our innovative litigation that caused a groundswell of support for regulating this chemical that is just as just as deadly and easily used for murder and suicide as Cyanide but was – for some unfathomable reason – sold to children by a major retailer.
C.A. Goldberg, PLLC’s cases also brought together the families of children and adults who died after being sent SN from Amazon. At the hearing, the parents of three teenagers who died after purchasing pure sodium nitrite from Amazon, without any age verification checks or warnings, testified in support of the bill.
Cindy Cruz, the mother of Tyler Muhleman, a teenager from San Jose who tragically took his own life using sodium nitrite explained to lawmakers: “On May 25, 2021, my 17-year-old son, Tyler, took his life by ingesting sodium nitrite, which he purchased without my knowledge by creating his own account on Amazon. How can a potentially lethal substance be sold to anyone, much less minors? It’s difficult to comprehend how sodium nitrite is so easily accessible to minors-more accessible than cigarettes or alcohol. I miss my son. I miss his gentle nature, his kindness, compassion, and empathy. As Tyler’s mother, I feel it is my duty to share my story so we can work on getting these laws passed. If AB 1109 and AB 1210 are passed, it will save the lives of children and prevent other parents from having to go through the heartbreak of losing a child.”
The parents of 16-year-old Kristine Jónsson of Ohio and the parents of 17-year-old Ethan McCarthy of West Virginia filed a complaint in California state court against Amazon, claiming that the retailer assisted in the deaths of the two minors by selling them pure forms of sodium nitrite, some in such high concentrations that a single teaspoon could be fatal. Disturbingly, reports detail that online algorithms also recommended customers who purchased the chemical also buy a scale to measure the correct dose, an anti-vomiting drug that would ensure the poisoning be fatal, and even a handbook on assisted suicide.
They were also joined by C.A. Goldberg, PLLC founder Carrie Goldberg who testified that, “At this point, we have heard from over 60 families and filed lawsuits for six families whose children died from ingesting sodium nitrite. In most cases, the person regretted it, made themselves vomit, or called 9-1-1. Except for one case, nobody could be saved – sodium nitrite is too deadly. “Experts say means reduction is the number one way to reduce suicide. That’s what AB 1109 and 1210 will accomplish.”
We are now looking to other states to enact common-sense and effective legislation to prevent more senseless deaths. According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, suicide was the second leading cause of death among 10 to 14-year-olds and third among those 15 to 24. This disturbing rise in youth suicides coincides with America’s worsening mental health crisis, which disproportionately affects young people.
The C.A. Goldberg, PLLC clients who bravely testified at the bills committee hearing on Monday:
Jeff Muhleman and Cindy Cruz, parents of Tyler Muhleman, age 17
Meredith Mitchel, mother of Aydin Wallin, age 16
Christian Schmidt, father of Tyler Schmidt, age 15
Lawmakers backing the California sodium nitrite law
Assemblymember Connolly said in a press release: “Despite pure sodium nitrite having no legitimate application in everyday life, teenagers have been able to easily purchase the chemical in cheap, concentrated forms through several different retail platforms. The widespread availability of such a deadly compound has undeniably worsened our mental health crisis by providing teenagers in a moment of struggle, an easy means of taking their own lives. AB 1109 addresses this issue by raising the purchase age of pure sodium nitrite, dissuading young people from making a potentially devastating and irreversible decision.”
“While sodium nitrite has tragically grown in popularity as a suicide method, many consumers and medical professionals are unaware of the recommended antidote: methylene blue,” said Assemblymember Kalra. “By providing information about methylene blue, California can give consumers and medical professionals the information they need to quickly treat sodium nitrite poisonings and increase the likelihood of saving lives. Additionally, warning labels on shipping packages can alert parents and other household members to a potential suicide attempt, providing a critical opportunity to intervene. I am thankful both AB 1109 and AB 1210 will move forward today.”
Click here to watch the hearing
This significant progress comes on the heels of a win for C.A. Goldberg, PLLC on Friday, when attorneys won a motion to dismiss on its lawsuit against Amazon. Here, C.A. Goldberg, PLLC represented the parents of an 18-year-old in Arizona and a 19-year-old in Virginia. In a June filing, C.A. Goldberg, PLLC argued that Amazon had a duty not to sell products that weren’t reasonably safe and did not have warnings or labelling (Amazon also deleted one-star product reviews warning that sodium nitrite could be used to kill, and promoted the product to customers). “Even after parents and regulators warned Amazon that Sodium Nitrite had no household use, Amazon continued to sell it to households, for under twenty dollars with fast delivery,” the filing stated. Carrie Goldberg, told Law360 that Judge Sutton’s order is a victory that comes at a great cost, “we have a long road ahead in this litigation, and our clients go to sleep every night without their son and daughter.”
If you have been affected by Amazon’s sale of suicide products and would like to explore your options, you can get in touch here.
Media contact: Caroline@cagoldberglaw.com
If you feel that you want to die or think you may be at risk of suicide, it’s very important to reach out to someone immediately. In the USA call 988 for 24/7, free, and confidential support. Help is available, right now: find resources here, including an interactive tool to help you find the support that is right for you. If you are in immediate danger or think someone is at risk of harm, contact your local emergency services.
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