By Stephanie Stahl


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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A lawsuit filed today in Philadelphia blames a popular herbal product for the overdose death of a young man in Chester County. The supplement Kratom is taken by millions of people and it’s made from an Asian tree and is similar to coffee.

It was being used by the Chester County man who had a heart attack while driving. The car flipped over, but that’s not what killed him.

“Every time I’d say ‘I love you,’ he’d say, ‘I love you more’ and that’s what I miss,” Caleb’s mother, Lori Sturgis, said.

Lori Sturgis explained in American Sign Language how devastated the family is about the death of her 25-year-old son, Caleb.

“Well, I really miss his creativity, he was always making things fun,” Caleb’s sister, Cassandra, said.

Caleb died last year after drinking tea made with the popular supplement Kratom.

“In our complaint, we have alleged that Kratom is deadly dangerous and that it was sold without warnings or instructions,” attorney Bob Mongeluzzi said.

On behalf of the family, Mongeluzzi is suing SoCal Herbal Remedies, the maker of the product Caleb had been using for anxiety, pain and to boost energy.

“This is part of the autopsy report,” Mongeluzzi said. “It is clear from the coroner that Kratom killed Caleb.”

In repeated warnings, the FDA says consumers should not use Kratom, which contains opioid substances and there are a growing number of reported injuries and deaths linked to the supplement.

“The lobbying arm of the Kratom Association is powerful and we hope the FDA will ban Kratom until it is adequately tested,” Mongeluzzi said.

The only labeling on the package Caleb was using says to keep it away from children.

“One of our main, top goals is to let people know that this is dangerous and possibly fatal,” Caleb’s dad, Scott, said.

The Sturgis family, who lives near West Chester, says Caleb had been using Kratom for a few years, no one ever thought an herb could cause such heartbreak.

Caleb’s family says the maker of the supplement failed to warn users about potential risks and didn’t test for safety.

SoCal Herbal Remedies said it couldn’t comment because of pending litigation.

Several states and cities have banned the sale of Kratom.

Stephanie Stahl