Last June, 20-year-old Alex Kearns died by suicide, blaming stock trading app Robinhood for his death. He mistakenly believed he’d lost $730,000, and that the company was coming for more than $170,000 of that money in a matter of days. His family now agrees that it was Robinhood’s fault — on Monday, they sued the company for wrongful death.
According to the complaint, Kearns never owed any money at all, but that didn’t stop the Robinhood app from suggesting that he did, or sending him an “immediate action required” email telling him he needed to deposit $178,612.73 by June 17th.
Here’s a screenshot one of his relatives shared on Twitter last June of what the app reportedly showed him at the time:
Kearns reportedly tried to contact Robinhood’s support department four times, but only got an automated message. The day after he died, Robinhood sent another automated message to let him know he didn’t actually owe money at all, according to a CBS News story that includes an interview with Kearns’ family.
Later that month, when the news of his death spread, Robinhood promised to change how its app worked, educate its users, and pledged $250,000 to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
The new lawsuit isn’t the only reason this story is freshly relevant. Robinhood is also now facing dozens of lawsuits for its role in the GameStop / Reddit / Wall Street Bets saga, where individual traders banded together to manipulate stocks that had been shorted, but some traders are blaming them for huge losses after Robinhood froze how much and when they could invest. The company’s software also automatically sold some options (though not shares, Robinhood claims) out from under traders.
Either way, the huge run on GameStop now seems to be over, and unlike Kearns, many people may have lost tremendous amounts of real money gambling via Robinhood and other apps. If you know someone who did, they can find the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.