Family Files Wrongful Death Suit Against Four Loko

By Kim Vatis
|  Thursday, May 19, 2011  |  Updated 5:45 PM EDT
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Four Loko Accused in Wrongful Death Suit

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A family from Fairfax County has filed a wrongful death suit against the Chicago-based makers of Four Loko, an alcoholic energy drink, after their 15-year-old son allegedly died after consuming two cans.

“Our son did not deserve to die in the hands of something so easy to buy that it’s sold in convenience stores,” said Karla Rupp, Bo's mother. “The Four Loko effect is eternal for our son.”

The Rupp family, of the Centreville, Va., area, said the their son, John, known to friends and family as "Bo," drank the concoction while at a concert at Jiffy Lube Live on Sept. 25 and began acting erratically. In its original form, the 24 ounce cans have the alcohol equivalent of five beers and the stimulant equivalent of four coffees.

“He and several classmates had wanted to ‘tailgate’ for about three hours before the concert, but I insisted that he cut that back to one hour,” Karla Rupp said. “I figured, ‘What could happen in an hour?’ Well, it turns out a lot can happen in an hour."

Concert staff noticed Bo's behavior and that he appeared extremely intoxicated, so they called the family to pick him up.

“His behavior caused by drinking Four Loko was so erratic and agitated that they feared for his safety,” Karla Rupp said. “It turns out that they were right to be fearful.”

When they got him to their home, Bo -- an honors student and two-sport athlete -- took off running. He went onto busy Pleasant Valley Road and was struck and killed.  Police said he was sitting in the roadway when he was struck.

“He either fell down or laid down, simply out of his mind, where he was then hit by a car and died the next day,” said his father, John Rupp.

The Rupps filed their suit against Phusion Projects, the makers of Four Loko, in Cook County Circuit Court. They said they want to raise awareness about the beverage, often referred to as "blackout in a can," as prom and graduation seasons arrive.

Bo+Rupp

“I hope other parents will talk to their children about this drink,’’ Karla Rupp said. “We don’t want any other family to go through the sheer terror of losing a child.’’

The suit alleges Phusion was "careless and negligent" in formulating this alcohol-caffeine mixed beverage.

“My hope is that these drinks that are sold in single-serving cans will be pulled off the shelves everywhere,” Karla Rupp said.

A statement from Phusion read that the company works hard to ensure products are consumed "safely and responsibly by adults over the age of 21." The company will vigorously defend itself in this wrongful death suit.

The Chicago law firm of Cooney and Conway is serving as co-counsel to the Rupps. 

Four Loko quickly earned a reputation as a dangerous beverage. This year, the Chicago City Council followed the lead of other cities and states and outlawed its sale in Chicago limits. The Food and Drug Administration issued a health warning about the beverage in November.

In November the drink's maker said it would remove caffeine and two other ingredients -- guarana and taurine -- from its products. It still carries the alcohol equivalent of five beers.

The Rupps also are suing the Manassas Raceway convenience store where Bo reportedly purchased the drinks

Stay with NBCWashington.com for more information.

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