ROGERS, Ark. (KNWA) — Amazon has lost its bid to throw out a suit tying a fatal overdose to morphine-laced poppy seed tea.
Amazon and retailer Sincerely Nuts argued that Stephen Hacala Jr. broke the chain of causation when he made the tea from the unwashed seeds to try and combat insomnia.
Amazon has yet to argue immunity and non-seller status.
Hacala was found dead in his apartment on April 2016, according to the court. An autopsy found he died from morphine intoxication, but no morphine was present in the apartment. Investigators found a 5-pound bag of unwashed poppy seeds and a 33-ounce bottle with “rinsed” poppy seeds in it.
Hacala allegedly purchased the seeds on Amazon’s website from Sincerely Nuts. The reviews and Q&A section on Amazon’s web page for the product allegedly include discussions of poppy seed rinse or tea.
Hacala’s father sued the companies on his own behalf and as an administrator of his son’s estate, alleging that, despite publicity about numerous other deaths from poppy seed tea, the companies marketed and sold the unwashed poppy seeds without warnings.
The companies sought to dismiss the complaint on various grounds, including causation. Hacala’s act of processing the seeds “is a classic intervening act that breaks the chain of causation as a matter of law,” defeating all the claims, Amazon said.
Senator Tom Cotton has a bill that would ban the sale of poppy seeds.