Makers Of Four Loko Sued After Teen’s Death

CHICAGO (CBS) — A family is suing the Chicago-based maker of a fruit-flavored alcoholic beverage, following the death of their teenager who drank what the attorneys call “blackout in a can” before a concert.

The lawsuit was filed in Cook County against Phusion Projects’ Four Loko, which attorneys say is heavily marketed to young people.

The family of 15-year-old Bo Rupp, who died after ingesting two cans of the beverage, wants to raise awareness of the product as the prom and graduation party season kicks in, according to a news release issued by the attorneys in the case.

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Rupp’s parents, John and Karla, charge in the suit that Phusion Projects “was careless and negligent in formulating a caffeinated, alcoholic beverage that desensitizes users to the symptoms of intoxication, and increases the potential for alcohol-related harm.”

The lawsuit contends that one 23-ounce can of Four Loko has similar alcohol content to a six-pack of beer. It comes in a variety of fruit flavors that appeal to young people.

According to Four Loko’s website, the beverage is sold in 23.5-ounce cans with either 6 or 12 percent alcohol, depending on state regulations. Four Loko has roughly the same alcohol content as wine and some craft beers, and far less alcohol by volume than hard liquor, the company says.

Rupp, of suburban Washington, D.C., drank two cans of Four Loko, becoming highly intoxicated and then losing his life after he walked onto a roadway near his home last fall, according to the lawsuit.

At a news conference today, Karla Rupp, Bo’s mother, recalled the events of Sept. 25, 2010.

Bo Rupp drank the contents of two Four Lokos, which also included caffeine, in about an hour before a concert. When the concert staff noticed Bo’s behavior and that he appeared extremely intoxicated, they called his mother to retrieve him.

The beverage was purchased at a convenience store before the concert.

When Bo’s mother arrived, her son was paranoid and disoriented. When they arrived in their suburban neighborhood, Bo took off on foot. Although both of his parents urged him to come home via text messages, Bo’s responses were confusing.

“Eventually we lost all contact. Bo made his way on foot onto a busy road, and then he was hit by a car,” Karla Rupp said.

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

“This was a boy who was raised by concerned parents, who had a stable home life and lots of friends,” said Jeffrey Simon of Simon, Eddins & Greenstone, LLP of Dallas, which is serving as co-counsel in the lawsuit. “What killed him was not the type of alcohol that adults might serve at a party. Four Loko is so deliberately different — it’s sweet and fruity and marketed directly at the underage crowd – that it is far more dangerous than other drinks. And the founders of Four Loko knew that from the beginning.”

Simon pointed out that if Rupp had overindulged on most any other alcoholic beverage that night, he probably would have vomited or passed out. But the stimulants in the drink are known to mask the effects of being drunk, and so even more experienced drinkers don’t realize they’re intoxicated.

In November, 2010 the makers of Four Loko agreed to remove caffeine from the drink.

“We are extremely saddened by this tragedy and our thoughts are with the Rupp family,” the company said in a statement. “This accident, and others like it, speak to the serious, societal concerns regarding the misuse of alcohol – alcohol abuse and underage drinking are problems we would all like to see discussed and solved.

“It is important to remember that because a complaint is filed, doesn’t mean the allegations in it have merit. We plan to defend this case in the courts rather than in the press, and we will do so vigorously.

  • david

    Sue, sue, sue. Don’t take responsibility, just SUE.

  • swizzle

    if the parents had put as much effort into getting involved in thier sons lifestyle before this happened then he would still be alive today. this is just another example of someone trying to pass blame and shift excuses for thier own failures onto someone else.

    • be smart

      i agree. Responsibility starts at home.

    • felicia

      People…kids will be kids. I don’t care how much you tell a child not to drink! Sometimes they still will do what their friends are doing. Peer pressure can take over morals and values. Think about when you were a child / teenager. Did you follow all the rules? Were you perfect!!! Let’s not blame the parents. The drink was legal at the time. A 5 year old could have purchased the drink.

      Do you feel me? :-)

      • The Flint Skinny

        Felicia – it was restricted to people over the age of 21. Comments about it’s legality relate to the combination caffeine and alcohol. At the time, the beverage could legally contain both. They have since made that illegal. At no point could you buy it if you were under 21. They actually had a large scale marketing campaign as well as strict product placement rules to ensure it was well known that it contained alcohol and was intended for 21+ only.

        Also, where would a 5 year old get the money to buy something? That’s way too young to have a job.

      • Pothead

        Felicia, Its alcohol……….YOU MUST BE 21 YEARS OLD TO BUY IT.

  • Pothead

    How do they know he drank 2 cans ? Souldn’t they be going after the person who purchased it for him ?

    • just saying

      I agree with this coment .

      What is a 15 year old buying/having beer ?

      You don’t see people suing budweiser .

      • felicia

        There wasn’t an age limit. It was legal at the time.

      • StupidPeopleFTW

        There was always an age limit… how can people be this stupid? It’s liquor, you have to be 21 to buy it.

    • Yvonne

      Exactly what I was thinking.

  • Native Chicagoan

    Hey David and Swizzle, it appears you don’t have children to make such nonsense comments. Also, you’ve never been a teenager. For any blowhard to say “if the parents had put enough effort into getting involved with their son….before this happened….” and “Don’t take responsibility” are both ignorant, baseless and evil comments. Hope neither of you ever have children.

    • Patty Reynolds-Andersen

      Well said! Agreed!

    • Curt

      Having children or not having children, this is a grown person (if he committed murder, he would surely be tried as an adult) and he made the decision to drink the beverage. Also, Mom picked him up, drove him home and then he “took off” and didn’t return thier texts?? So, your obviously drunk kid is out running around and you TEXT him? Why didn’t you follow him when he ran, or call the police? Stop suing the beverage companies….they didn’t hold him down and pour this down his throat, and the article doesn’t mention any mental impairment, so I am assuming he made this decision himself.

      • Vicky

        @ native Chicagoan… quiet; we don’t want anyone to know how stupid the majority of Chicagoans actually are…..

      • Native Chicagoan

        grown person, a 15 year old? not knowing where he ran too? what is your silly and wavering point? p.s. your comment reveals a mental impairment.

    • be smart

      I have children, and I agree with them. Values start at home. If my child were to behave in this manner, I certainly would not sue everyone else. The drink did not kill him. His running from his parents and running into the roadway did. Heck, why not sue the driver too? All the money in the world will never bring that kid back, so why not own up to the fact that it was a result of careless behavior?

      • Vicky

        Bottom line is, it is illegal to drink if you are under 21. He CHOSE to break the law, and brought on his own consequences. I am not saying that it isn’t sad, but I don’t understand why the parents are suing…..?

      • Native Chicagoan

        you likely have little kids or have lived in a bubble with model teens. wait, genius. also, if you don’t know it you may have values, likely these parents did too, but your values include being heartless.

      • Native Chicagoan

        Heck, Vicky, how can you leave home ever and survive with your lack of insight? Heck, a 15 year old chose to do something of which, heck, he was not aware of the consequences because, heck, he was only 15, which means he was, heck, likely not a drinker, and instead a minor, which this, I’m sure, heckless, company advertised to. But, newsflash, minors need to be protected, because, heck, they are minors.

      • StupidPeopleFTW

        You apparently havent been 15 for a VERY long time.. he was completely aware of what he was doing. He was simply stupid, and now should be eligible for a Darwin award. Terrible tragedy, but clearly too stupid to procreate.




  • zelvis

    I had wonderful, diligent parents, and I still drank and smoked pot as a teen. There is no need for a product such as this. I’m sorry if it’s too time consuming to actually drink 6 beers to get loaded. It’s like making a passenger car that goes 300mph. Get it off the market.

    • Erica

      Wow…I can’t believe you are dumb enough to think each can actually contains that much alcohols. That’s what their lawsuit is claiming…not the actual truth. And, if it were true, then the cans would not be in a readily accessible area to purchase; they would be behind the counter or in a locked cabinet…just like Everclear. By the way, as far as your other comment about the car, it’s not society’s responsibility to protect the stupid people from themselves. It’s called natural selection and if it happened more often, then we wouldn’t have to read ignorant posts from people like you.

      • Vicky

        LMAO ERICA ^5!!!!!

    • Vicky

      uh, it is not for the under-21 crowd….and those who wish to get ‘loaded’ seem to get the job done anyone, one way or the other.

    • Native Chicagoan

      Erica, Wow I cannot believe how dumb you are and others on hear who hold a kid 15 years old responsible for his behavior while drunk and overstimulated by the caffeine. Wow, I cannot believe how dumb the comments are by supposedly people who were never teenagers and about parents who likely were so damn confused about what was going on with their son. Do you think they may have said “we’ll talk with you inside” and he was so wiped out he wanted to walk or something like that. anyone who does not see the fault of this company and blames these parents are clueless. Prediction: they will get a huge settlement. Already the company has changed its ways. They realize they did wrong, what’s the problem of the commenters who think it was the parents fault, lack of brains?

      • Erica

        Also, Chicagoan, I was a teenager once. I know how teenagers act, but you need to understand that no matter if this product or other product for that matter is restricted to certain ages and older, teenagers will ALWAYS find a way to obtain them. You are right about them getting a huge settlement. That’s just the sick way our judicial system works sometimes. Just like the guy who used his push mower to trim his hedges. When the mower flipped over on him, he sued the manufacturer for an unsafe product and won millions. Let’s reward stupidity. Obviously we already do if you are gainfully employed, Chicagoan.

      • Erica

        I was going to reply to your comment above also. You have no common sense, do you? I suppose if your child was playing on a swingset and decided to flip the swing higher than she should have and the swinset topples over on her, then you would sue the swingset manufacturer for making an unsafe product. Even though a clear warning existed on the swingset that flipping the swing in that manner could be dangerous, you would still sue for the company even putting out such a product? Deep down, if you did have common sense, then you would have dug post holes and secured the swingset into the ground using concrete to prevent that accident and you would have been outside with your child alerting her to stop swinging so high, but you didn’t, you feel guilty, and so you blame the manufacturer for your shortcomings as a parent. Essentially, Chicagoan, this is EXACTLY what these parents are doing. Get it now or do I need to draw you a chart? Oh, and by the way, this product has been on the U.S. market for almost 6 years. If it was sooooo dangerous, then more people would have died from it by now. Idiot.

  • be smart

    What’s the difference between this product, and hard liquor? Are you going to remove that from the market too?

    • just saying


  • mike

    I have children and I think the parents were wrong if they picked him up they should have never let him walk off. Lots of questions here did hw have a fake ID and if not they should go afther the store oh wait the store doesn’t have as much $$$$ as the comapny does. If the was this drunk why didn’t they call 911 if he was that drunk. Hope they lose

    • be smart


  • Scott

    These people will never see a single dime. Alcoholic beverages are not marketed to teens, the drinking age is 21 nationwide. It’s not the beverage company’s fault if someone drinks irresponsibly and hurts theirself. I hate these jackpot lawsuits. No cash payout for them !!!

  • Tony Ellis

    This goes to show you that the govenrnment could care less for the lives of young America. This drink is worse than alcohol and the effects are concealed. The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for this boys death.

  • The Kid

    I think they should look at the toxicology report sounds like he had a little something else in him also……

  • Jeremy

    Can someone please explain to me how caffiene “conceals” the effects of being intoxicated? And what about those drinks such Mike’s Hard Lemonade and the old college favorite Boone’s Farm, are those marketed toward under age children simply because they are flavored?

  • Amy

    He is 15, what was he doing drinking. I think the makers of four loko should counter sue the parents for negligence and endangerment of a child. Because at 15 they are still children! Typical to blame someone else and try to get money out of it. Very sad!

    • Native Chicagoan

      the stuff was marketed to minors. it was a new and jazzy can. fruity flavor concealed the alcohol taste and caffeine. similar to other drinks such as apple martinis, or pina coladas, etc. your point about him being a child and 15 is true, that is exactly why the parents have a lawsuit. this company was irresponsible in the marketing and masked the danger of their product. what surprises me in these comments is the lack of intelligence and the heartless element. Very sad for our society.

      • Tammy

        @Native, You are so very wrong. The fact that the law says the legal drinking age is 21, any company selling alcohol, is marketing to their customers, all of which are 21 or older. Alot of adults don’t like the taste of beer or the hard liquor in mixed drinks and prefer something more mild, like a wine cooler or any other non-harsh alcoholic beverage. I’ve always thought the caffeine was a good idea for someone who can handle their alcohol, and still do, but someone irresponsible, like someone who shouldn’t be drinking at all, NO ! The company’s marketing is obviously not irresponsible at all. Everyone is responsible for their own actions. I’m sorry you are so sad, you must have a lack of intelligence. HaHaHaHaHa

  • tigtii

    In come the bottom feeding, blood sucking attorneys! There is a gravy train to board lol.

  • Vicky

    15 year-old BREAKS THE LAW, and the parents sue the beverage company? What if this kid robbed the store and got shot? Would they sue the store? MORONS!

  • Justice...

    Booo to Naive Chicagoan!!! Its everyone’s fault…I’m sure the parents are good parents… are most of the parents on intervention.

  • StupidPeopleFTW

    It’s hilarious that anyone think the company is responsible for an underage kid getting liquor illegally, getting hammered, and then running into traffic. These drinks are not that strong, this sounds FAR more like a kid that slammed 2 beers, and then smoked a jibber, and dropped 2 hits.

    I’d drop $20 that a full toxicology review shows more than just liquor and caffeine in his system…

    90% of people used caffeine to ‘sober up’ for the last 50 years, now it suddenly causes people to freak out and run into traffic? BS. Someone found a good price on some good acid or mushrooms and went to town.

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