Father sues dealer of drug that killed son

Updated 4/4/2014 5:24 PM
Editor's note: This story originally ran on May 7, 2002 as part of the Daily Herald's "Hidden Scourge: Heroin in the Suburbs" series.

The father of a McHenry teen killed two years ago today in an Ecstasy-related overdose is suing his son's supplier and several other suspected drug dealers, saying they bear responsibility for the boy's death.

David Lorenz is seeking at least $250,000 in damages from five defendants who he claims played a role in the decision of his son, Steven Lorenz, to take a fatal dose of the Ecstasy-like drug PMA on May 7, 2000.


"I want to do something to help other people get away from drugs, and sometimes a lawsuit will make people think," Lorenz said Monday.

Lorenz's 17-year-old son died two years ago after swallowing several PMA pills, which he mistook for the less-potent drug Ecstasy, during an all-night party at his McHenry apartment. Friends found him the morning of May 7 convulsing and unable to breathe. Efforts to revive him through CPR and by cooling Lorenz's temperature, which had soared to 108 degrees, failed. He was pronounced dead later that day.

His death was the first of three PMA-related fatalities involving young people in May 2000 that brought widespread attention to the use of club drugs in the suburbs.

Among the defendants named in his father's lawsuit is Steven Jergensen, a 21-year-old Round Lake Beach man serving a four-year prison sentence for selling Lorenz the fatal drugs. The suit, filed in McHenry County court, claims Jergensen acted dangerously and created an unreasonable risk of harm to Lorenz by selling him the PMA pills.

The suit also names a Prospect Heights man and a Milwaukee man as defendants, alleging they each played a direct role in the distribution system that put the PMA in Lorenz's hands. However, neither man has been charged in connection with the death.

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In an unusual twist, the lawsuit also lists as defendants Charlotte Cox of McHenry and Sean Kucharski of Crystal Lake, two people convicted recently of smuggling the drugs from the Netherlands to McHenry County.

Under the Illinois Drug Dealer Civil Liability Act, they are liable for Steven Lorenz's death, said John C. Kreamer, the attorney for Lorenz's father.

The act, Kreamer said, allows for lawsuits not only against participants in a drug transaction that leads to injury but also against anyone involved in the distribution of a similar drug in the same time frame.

Although Cox and Kucharski, who are both in jail awaiting sentencing, were not arrested until nearly a year after Lorenz's death, Kreamer said the act presumes anyone charged in a drug conspiracy has been involved in the drug trade for at least two years.


David Lorenz said he hopes the lawsuit can bring justice to those he believes have escaped it so far, namely the people who supplied Steven Jergensen with the PMA. But more importantly, he said he hopes it is a deterrent to anyone thinking about becoming involved in the drug trade.

"Nobody should have to die for a good time," he said. "It has to be stopped. Maybe this will make people realize that this isn't a smart thing to be involved in. People need to know that this drug isn't a joke.

The lawsuit is scheduled to make its first appearance in court Sept. 6 in front of Judge Michael Caldwell.

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