A mother has filed a lawsuit against Mad Hatter’s Ethnobotanical Tea Bar, along with two other Pinellas County businesses, claiming that her 19-year-old daughter’s psychotic episode and brain damage was caused by consuming kratom tea over a four-year period.
Details of the Kratom Lawsuit
According to Mary Tabar, her daughter Brette was a frequent customer for 4 years at 3 Pinellas County bars serving kratom tea. In March, Brette Tabar “suffered psychotic episodes and hallucinations so severe that she was confined pursuant” to the Baker Act, the lawsuit says.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that Mary Tabar has decided to sue Bula on the Beach, Bula Kafe and Mad Hatter’s Ethnobotanical Tea Bar for negligence. She is claiming that her daughter suffered frontal lobe damage to her brain after regularly consuming the herbal remedy, which originates from Southeast Asia.
“Our complaint lays out our allegations pretty clearly. The complaint stems from the sale of this dangerous product, kratom,” said Tabar’s lawyer. “It is a dangerous product that has certainly caused injury to people, and it has certainly caused injury to our client.”
Kratom tea leaves have been as a natural medication for years in Southeast Asia. The leaves are dried and crushed, and consumers usually take it in a pill form or brew it into tea.
It gained popularity in tea bars for its opioid-like effects, which can either act as a stimulant or a mild euphoric depending on the dosage, according to the FDA. It is used most commonly as an herbal treatment for anxiety or pain.
Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency have attempted to place regulations on the plant. According to the FDA, they have linked kratom to 44 deaths in the United States over a 9-year period. However, proponents like the American Kratom Agency state that the substance is harmless, and will only produce dangerous side-effects when mixed with other drugs.
Tabar’s attorney said a physician treating Brette Tabar saw a correlation between the brain damage and kratom, but he chose not to elaborate on the details or comment on her current condition, citing pending litigation. In the complaint, the attorney said the bars failed to warn Tabar of dangerous side-effects, making them liable for “bodily injury and resulting pain and suffering, aggravation of a pre-existing condition, mental anguish, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, past and future medical and nursing care expenses and treatment” and other damages.
Tabar’s attorney would not disclose whether or not Brette had any pre-existing conditions or if she was taking any medication at the time of her episodes.
However, Levi Love, owner of Mad Hatter’s, said this is the first time he’s ever heard of someone suing a tea bar for brain damage. He said the Tampa Bay area’s growing tea scene is close-knit, and that he’s never heard of anything like the side effects described in the lawsuit. He also claims his bartenders always explain the tea to customers and help guide their experience, making sure to warn those taking medication not to try the drink.
“I think it’s completely unfounded. Being around people who drink kratom and use it regularly, I’ve never seen these symptoms or heard of them,” Love said. “Never a psychotic episode and certainly not hallucinating or brain damage.”
Love is also not convinced that Tabar was as frequent a user as her family claims. While Carpenter said he would characterize her as a regular customer, Love claims he does not know her, which is uncommon for his customers.
Based on information provided by her lawyers, Love said Brette Tabar would have been 15 when she became a regular at the bars. He claims that this is impossible, as his bars have a strictly enforced 18-and-over policy.
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