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Family Claims Caffeine Tablets Killed Son

ABERDEEN, Miss. (CN) - A Mississippi teenager died after taking Stay Awake tablets because of the dangerous amount of caffeine they contain, the teen's family claims in court.

Noah Smith, 17, died on Sept. 26, 2014 of what was later determined to have been a fatal cardiac arrhythmia.

In a complaint filed in the Oxford, Miss. Federal Court on Jan. 14, Smith's family says he purchased a packet of the pills at their local Piggly Wiggly grocery store, and shortly after taking them placed a frantic call to his father.

After telling his father he had the pills, he said "his heart was racing, that he could not think straight, and that he was desperately afraid something was very wrong with him."

With that, the complaint says, Noah Smith dropped the phone.

His father immediately called for help; but by the time emergency responders arrived at his home, Noah was lying, unresponsive, in his back yard.

Smith's family claims defendant A&Z Pharmaceutical Inc., the maker of the pills, marketed and sold a product that was "defective in design" to children aged 12 to 18, and that it failed to include adequate warnings about the potential danger of its pills in packaging for Stay Awake caffeine pills.

"A&Z knew or should have known that this product is not safe for children, including Noah Smith, and that this product poses an unreasonably dangerous risk of adverse cardiac affects and/or death in children," the lawsuit states. "Noah Smith did not have knowledge of any condition of the caffeine tablet that was inconsistent with his safety, he did not appreciate the danger of the defective condition; and he did not deliberately or voluntarily choose to expose himself to the danger ..."

The complaint continues: "Noah Smith's death was proximately caused by the ingestion of the caffeine in the Stay Awake Caffeine Tablets. This is corroborated by the autopsy which reads 'Cause of Death: Fatal Cardiac Arrhythmia (Ventricular Fibrillation) associated with Caffeine Tablet(s) ingestion.'"

Smith's family seeks compensatory and punitive damages on claims of defective design, negligence, gross negligence, and negligent failure to warn.

It is represented by Rhea Tannehill Jr., of Tannehill, Carmean & McKenzie of Oxford, Miss., and Brian Hinton, of Anderson Crawley & Burke of Ridgeland, Miss.

A representative for A&Z Pharmaceutical directed a request for comment Friday afternoon to the voicemail of an unidentified recipient, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Courthouse News.

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