Des Moines family, seven others sue Snapchat alleging app facilitated sale of deadly pills

Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 5:54 AM CST
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DES MOINES, Iowa (KCCI) - Ciara Gilliam died in August 2022 after taking a pill she thought was Xanax, but turned out to be laced with fentanyl. Now, her family and seven others across the country are suing Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, alleging the app facilitated the sale of deadly pills.

The lawsuit alleges she developed a compulsion to engage with Snapchat at all hours and had trouble sleeping because of it. It goes on to say the program’s features connected her to other users who were complete strangers who allegedly assaulted and abused her.

It also alleges those features connected her to a dealer, and she began purchasing Xanax using Snapchat to help her sleep. Gilliam took one of those pills, according to the suit, in August 2022 and didn’t realize it was laced with fentanyl. Ciara was 22 when she died.

Her parents offered a reward to find the person who sold her those pills.

“If we can save just one life. Or take a dealer off the streets, or make an impact on someone’s life to stop what’s going on. We will,” Robert Gilliam said in August. “To get at least one dealer off the street, then we’ve done our part. Because that one dealer is serving up to 100 or maybe 200 people.”

“Snapchat’s defective design and snap’s failure to warn were substantial factors in causing Ciara Gilliam’s death” the lawsuit reads. Plaintiffs point to Snapchat’s features, like disappearing messages, maps and other unique features that they say facilitate illegal and deadly sales of counterfeit pills.

“The Social Media Victims Law Center will continue to hold Snap, Inc. and its social media product Snapchat legally accountable for the sale of illicit drugs on its site and its features that allow drug dealers to operate without fear of facing justice for their crimes,” said Matthew P. Bergman, founding attorney of Social Media Victims Law Center in a news release. SMVLC filed the lawsuit for the eight families. “Snapchat needs to take immediate action to stop connecting drug dealers with minors and young adults who have no idea that they are playing Russian Roulette with their lives when unknowingly purchasing medications that are laced with deadly levels of fentanyl. It’s time for Snap to put an end to its Snapchat cartel.”

KCCI contacted Snap, but did not hear back Thursday.