Distraught Mom Blames Illinois Drink Maker for Teen’s Death

May 20, 2011

A distraught mother who claims in a wrongful death lawsuit that Four Loko alcoholic drinks contributed to her 15-year-old son’s death appeared in Chicago on Thursday to publicize the suit and warn others about the dangers the drinks pose.

Karla Rupp of Centreville, Va., said it’s especially important to get the message out at prom time.

“I want parents to know that this does exist. I want kids to know that it’s very dangerous,” Rupp told The Associated Press in an interview, adding that she hopes her message will save lives.

Rupp filed suit in March against the Chicago-based maker of Four Loko following her son’s death last year.

Bo Rupp, a suburban Washington, D.C. teen, drank two cans of Four Loko last September. Each can contained caffeine and the same amount of alcohol as about four beers, attorney Jeffrey Simon said.

Karla Rupp said Bo became very intoxicated and disoriented. He was in the middle of a road when he was hit and killed by a car.

The drinks are popular on college campuses, but some states have banned them.

The Food and Drug Administration sent warning letters to Chicago-based Phusion Projects and three makers of similar products, saying the added caffeine made the drinks unsafe. Stimulant additives countered the sedative effects of alcohol and led to alcohol poisonings, the FDA said.

Phusion Projects is among manufacturers that say they have removed caffeine and other stimulants from their products.

The remaining high alcohol content makes the products still dangerous, Simon said.

The Rupp family sued Phusion Projects in Cook County, claiming the company was careless and negligent in making a product that increased the risk for alcohol-related harm.

Simon said Four Loko is “deliberately different” than typical alcoholic drinks, and far more dangerous.

“It’s sweet and fruit and marketed directly at the underage crowd,” Simon said.

Phusion Projects spokesman Chris Short called the teen’s death a tragedy, but said just because a wrongful death lawsuit has been filed doesn’t mean the allegations have merit.

Short said the company is reviewing the lawsuit and plans to vigorously defend the case in court.

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