The family of a Florida mom who died after taking supplements of the herbal substance kratom was awarded $11 million in a wrongful death federal lawsuit against its manufacturer.
Krystal Talavera, 39, a nurse and mother of four, was planning to surprise her partner with a Father's Day breakfast June 20, 2021, when she suddenly lost consciousness at her Boynton Beach home, according to the suit.
Biaggio Vultaggio, the father of her youngest son, found Talavera lying face down in their living room beside a coffee mug containing her latest purchase from The Kratom Distro –"Space Dust" — a product derived from the kratom plant and not regulated by the FDA.
Talavera was rushed to the hospital, where she died of "acute mitragynine intoxication," a high induced by kratom, according to the Palm Beach County Coroner's office.
"This $11 million dollar judgment should be a wakeup call to the kratom industry about this dangerous and unregulated substance," Talavera's lawyer Tamara Williams said in a statement Wednesday. "There are families across the country who know firsthand that kratom is addictive and can be deadly."
Devin Filippelli, 21, Talavera's oldest son who filed the suit against The Kratom Distro and distributor Grow LLC, alleged his mom's supplements produced "opioid-like effects" that caused "respiratory failure."
Filippelli had been with his mom celebrating his high school graduation the day before her death — and both were thrilled about his prospects at the University of Florida. The grieving son has been heartbroken ever since the "nucleus of the family" left them.
Talavera's ex-husband, Benny Flores, added two boys the couple shared have gone through tremendous pain, with their 6-year-old son asking him, "When is his mother is coming back?"
Filippelli noted his mom, years before her death, was introduced by a friend to kratom products, and that she believed the products were "safe and natural dietary supplements," according to the suit.
Kratom products are abundant in the US, with around 1.7 million Americans taking the supplements in 2021, according to the FDA, which has cracked down on the industry in the past.
In 2019, the agency found "significant levels" of lead and nickel in kratom products, to the point it could cause severe metal poisoning if consumed over a long span of time.
Between July 2016 and December 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported there were about 153 overdose deaths in which the victim tested positive for kratom.
During his ruling, West Palm Beach Circuit Judge Donald Middlebrooks sympathized with Talavera's family, likening their grief to that of Florida families who lost loved ones to an unregulated tobacco industry in the past.
"I again emphasize that no award of damages will ever be adequate and that this decision reflects nothing more than an adherence to prior cases," Middlebrooks said.