Hand Sanitizer Lawsuit Filed After Woman Dies From Methanol Poisoning

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against 4e Brands, after a Missouri woman struggling with alcohol addiction died from ingesting lethal amounts of methanol, which is a poisonous form of wood alcohol found in a number of hand sanitizer products recalled in recent months.

The complaint (PDF) was filed by Debra Stagner in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on February 5, on behalf of herself and her deceased daughter, Kayla Stagner, indicating the manufacturer negligently manufactured and mislabeled its hand sanitizer products as containing ethyl alcohol as the only active ingredient, when in fact it contained deadly levels of methyl alcohol, which were not mentioned on the label.

Kayla Stagner died on May 30, 2020 at a hospital in Fenton, Missouri after ingesting a 4e’s Blumen Advanced Instant Hand Sanitizer Clear product purchased from a Sam’s Club retail outlet. However, the hand sanitizer was contaminated with methanol.

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According to the lawsuit, Kayla struggled with alcohol addiction and drank 4e’s hand sanitizer product labeled as containing 70% ethyl alcohol, which is the same type of alcohol used in alcoholic beverages. However, the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s office determined the cause of Kayla’s death was due to acute methanol intoxication, and subsequent testing of the remaining substance in the bottle of hand sanitizer showed it contained deadly levels of methanol, which is the same active ingredient used to make fuel and antifreeze.

The lawsuit alleges Kayla used the hand sanitizer in a manner reasonably anticipated by the manufacturer, due to the long history of adolescents and adults drinking hand sanitizer containing ethyl alcohol as a substitute for liquor without killing them.

Stagner alleges 4e negligently failed to perform adequate quality control measures and falsely misrepresented the active ingredients of the hand sanitizers, directly resulting in the death of her daughter. Stagner further claims the amount ingested would not have been fatal to Kayla if not for containing methyl alcohol, which was not listed on the product.

Throughout the coronavirus outbreak, the FDA has been closely monitoring the influx of unapproved products circulating through U.S. retailers and has issued over 100 hand sanitizer recalls to date, for either containing methanol or having lower than disclosed levels of ethanol or isopropyl alcohol, which give consumers a false sense of security on the effectiveness of the products.

The methanol contamination issue has become so widespread the FDA announced a temporary hand sanitizer testing guidance on August 7, 2020, outlining a series or required procedures for manufacturers to test for potentially harmful methanol ingredients

Although methanol poisoning typically only last eight to 24 hours, injuries can include an accumulation of acid in the blood, called metabolic acidosis, and can set in fast and cause a serious risk of permanent blindness or death.

In August 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicating at least 62 alcohol-based hand sanitizer-associated methanol poisoning cases had been reported from May 1, 2020 through June 30, 2020 nationwide, including at least four deaths and three cases which resulted in vision impairment.

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