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Judge awards $11 million to family in death of Boynton Beach woman from kratom

Krystal Talavera, a mother of four who lived in Boynton Beach, died in 2021
Krystal Talavera died on June 20, 2021. .jpg
Posted at 3:09 PM, Jul 29, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-29 23:42:06-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Family members of a woman who died from kratom have been awarded $11 million in a federal wrongful death lawsuit.

On Wednesday in West Palm Beach, Circuit Judge Donald Middlebrooks issued a final default judgment against Grow, LLC, and Sean Michael Harder, owner and operator of The Kratom Distro, for the kratom-induced death of 39-year-old Krystal Talavera, a mother of four who lived in Boynton Beach.

“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 in his ruling.

He also said, "when placed alongside the long line of wrongful death actions in Florida, particularly tobacco cases where the survivors tend to have witnessed their loved ones suffer a long and painful death, an award of $20 million is not reasonable."

The breakdown was $4,642,895.70 for the estate of Krystal Talavera, $1 million for Devin Filippelli as Talavera’s surving son; and $2 million for her other three children.

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Talavera’s lawyers provided witnesses and evidence to show the impact and cost of Krystal’s death on her surviving children.

Filippelli explained in court how his mother died on June 20, 2021, on Father's Day, the day after his high school graduation. He was getting ready to attend the University of Florida.

Krystal’s ex-husband, Benny Flores talked about the pain their two young sons are going through, especially the 6-year-old who kept asking when his mother was coming back.

Krystal’s partner, Biaggio Vultaggio, the father of her youngest son, recalled the heartbreaking moment he found Krystal collapsed on the floor in the living room, as their 14-month-old baby played next to her body.

There were hot cup of coffee and an open bag of “Space Dust," which is derived from kratom, or Mitragyna speciosa, a natural plant with origins in Southeast Asia that is commonly sold as a supplement in U.S. stores.
It is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

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MIAMI, FL - MAY 10: In this photo illustration, capsules of the herbal supplement Kratom are seen on May 10, 2016 in Miami, Florida. The herbal supplement is a psychoactive drug derived from the leaves of the kratom plant and it's been reported that people are using the supplement to get high and some states are banning the supplement. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In 2019, the FDA tested 30 different kratom products and found "significant levels" of lead and nickel in them, which researchers said could cause heavy metal poisoning if consumed over the long term.

Of 27,338 overdose deaths that occurred July 2016–December 2017,152 (0.56%) tested positive for kratom on postmortem toxicology, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

“At high concentrations, mitragynine produces opioid-like effects, such as respiratory failure,” the coroner wrote, according to the complaint.

Talavera was taken to Bethesda Hospital East in Boynton Beach, where she was pronounced dead.

She had worked as a registered nurse at Trustbridge Hospice Care in West Palm Beach.

Grow LLC was negligent in selling its kratom products “without any warning regarding instructions for use, according to the company.

“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, with mctlaw, said in a news release. “There are families across the country who know firsthand that kratom is addictive and can be deadly.”

Attorney Michael Cowgill said he hopes this judgment gets the attention of legislators and regulators.

“It’s time our government representatives act to protect the people across the country who are addicted to kratom and to protect other families from having to deal with unnecessary kratom averdose deaths,” Cowgill said.

Last week mctlaw attorneys won a $2.5 million dollar jury verdict in another kratom wrongful death lawsuit against a kratom manufacturer in Washington state.