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Colorado mother thrilled after judge rules fentanyl overdose lawsuit against Snapchat can move forward

Judge rules lawsuit over fentanyl overdoses can continue against Snapchat
Judge rules lawsuit over fentanyl overdoses can continue against Snapchat 02:50

A California judge has ruled that a lawsuit over fentanyl overdoses and the app Snapchat can now move forward.

The lawsuit claims the social media platform served as an avenue to facilitate sales of illegal drugs.

Thornton mother, Kim Osterman is one of the families in the lawsuit. Osterman lost her son in 2021 due to a fentanyl overdose after her son contacted a dealer through Snapchat. He was trying to buy Percocet but instead received a laced pill. Osterman is one of many families in Colorado living with the reality of losing a loved one to a fentanyl-laced pill.

The cases in the suit each detail the fatal drug was obtained through Snapchat. Since the lawsuit was filed in October 2022 more than 60 families have come forward with allegations.

Osterman believes it is good news that the judge has ruled to allow this lawsuit to move forward because change is needed and those behind Snapchat should work towards making the platform safer.

"You never want to get a call and be told 'look there's no easy way to tell you, but Max (son)  is dead' and that's the call I got," said Osterman.


Osterman is still grieving the loss of her 18-year-old son, Max who died after buying a fentanyl-laced pill from a drug dealer he met on the social media app, Snapchat in 2021.

"The longer they're gone, the longer their absence is terrible" added Osterman.

Her son's third anniversary is in a few weeks and she says not having him around is unbearable, but there is one silver lining.

"I am thrilled that we are moving forward with the Snapchat lawsuit, couldn't be happier," said Osterman.

The social media platform Snapchat is known for having certain features like location through their "Snap Map" and disappearing messages through their "My Eyes Only" feature.

The lawsuit alleges these features enable, and facilitate illegal and deadly drug sales of counterfeit pills containing lethal doses of fentanyl to minors and young adults. 

The lawsuit, which was filed in the Superior Court of Los Angeles also claims that Snapchat's product design created an environment that allows a "Snapchat Drug Cartel" operate in a manner that directly contributed to the deaths of nine minors and young adults in Florida, Colorado, California, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Louisiana, each who died after taking fentanyl laced pills and/or edibles purchased from dealers connected to them by the social media app.

Now, a judge has ruled a product liability lawsuit against the social media platform can go to trial.

"We just want the truth, we want changes, social media is not going away, we just want to be safe" said Osterman.

Snapchat has argued it is not responsible for what people do on their platform and adds that it has been proactive in stopping drug dealers and helping law enforcement.

In a statement to CBS News Colorado Snapchat said in part:

"The fentanyl epidemic has taken the lives of too many people and we have deep empathy for families who have suffered unimaginable losses. At Snap, we are working diligently to stop drug dealers from abusing our platform, and deploy technologies to proactively identify and shut down dealers, support law enforcement efforts to help bring dealers to justice, and educate our community and the general public about the dangers of fentanyl.

While we are committed to advancing our efforts to stop drug dealers from engaging in illegal activity on Snapchat, we believe the plaintiffs' allegations are both legally and factually flawed and will continue to defend that position in court."

Osterman believes the platform needs parental control features and should be held accountable for playing a role.


"They're profiting from our children's death and now we can let a jury decide and move forward with discovery to decide whether it's a product or a service" said Osterman.

Families like the Ostermans are hoping that now the social media giant will be imposed to hand over documents that reveal how their algorithms work and the risks it has.

"As a parent you do your best, and as long as social media is going to be around, Snapchat is going to be around, changes need to be made to make it safe," said Osterman.

This is a landmark ruling because if it stands it could have a domino effect for other lawsuits against social media companies.

A trial date has not been set yet.

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