The family of Bo Rupp filed a lawsuit earlier this week against Phusion Projects of Chicago. They blame the company for Bo's death on September 25. The 15-year-old became paranoid and ran into traffic after drinking two cans of the party beverage Four Loko - a beverage which is now banned in many states. Bo Rupp was fatally struck by an SUV when he ran into traffic.
According to the lawsuit, Bo Rupp and his friends purchased the beverage at a gas station before attending a concert. Rupp was kicked out of the concert for being intoxicated.
"Rupp was picked up by his mother, but on the way home, he became paranoid and jumped out of the car, according to the suit. He was struck by an SUV and died a day later."
Rupp's parents believe that Bo had no idea what effect the drink would have on him, though he must have known it would affect him somehow - otherwise, why would he have drunk it? Usually when kids drink such beverages they are hoping to become impaired to some extent.
Jeffrey Simon, the Rupp family's lawyer, said, "It's sweet and fruity and marketed directly at the underage crowd."
Phusion Projects, however, says their product is "intended for people of the legal drinking age, 21." Though the company views Rupp's death as a tragedy, a spokesperson for Phusion Projects said the company bore no responsibility for his death.
If Four Loko is intended for people age 21 and older, are people being asked for identification accordingly, as when purchasing alcoholic beverages?
Suppose Rupp had instead drank a few cans of beer, or smoked marijuana - also said to cause feelings of paranoia. Would his family still blame the product?
There is no question the teens' death is a tragedy. However, at some point a person needs to look beyond the affects of the substance and look instead toward the fact that the person who consumed the substance made a choice to take the substance - regardless of whether they could truly grasp the dangers. Does that mean that Four Loko is off the hook? Not entirely, however, the effects of the beverages are becoming known - unfortunatey through tragedies such as Bo Rupp's, and changes to the beverages' formula and legality are being made.
The most important thing people can do is to use this knowledge to educate others about the risks involved with drinking a beverage such as Four Loko.
Rupp's mother, Karla, is speaking out as a way to publicize her lawsuit, and also "to warn about the dangers that the drink poses - especially as prom approaches."
"I want parents to know that this does exist," she said. "I want kids to know that it's very dangerous."
Four Loko contains as much alcohol as five beers and as much caffeine as one cup of Starbucks' coffee.