The family of a 20-year-old user sued the stock trading app, Robinhood, Feb. 8 after their son blamed his suicide on the company. The family is blaming Robinhood’s “aggressive tactics” targeting young and inexperienced users, which they claim ultimately lead their son to commit suicide. 

Alexander Kearns was a 20-year-old college student at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln studying management, with a growing interest in financial markets. In June 2020, Kearns took his life thinking he owed Robinhood $730,000.

Now, almost one year later, Kearn’s parents and sister are suing Robinhood for wrongful death, unfair business practices, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The complaint was filed in the California’s Santa Clara County Superior Court.

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In a note left for his family, Kearns explained he thought he quickly racked up a negative $730,165 cash balance. An email from Robinhood said Kearns was required to deposit roughly $178,000 within a week. 

He reached out to Robinhood support multiple times, but only received automated responses in return. 

“He was in a complete panic. His panic and desperation grew as he was unable to communicate over a number of hours with anyone at Robinhood,” the lawsuit read.

Kearns did not understand that he didn’t actually have to pay the amount because his losses would have been covered by options held in his account. The lawsuit says this was never explained to him.

“He thought he was exposed, he thought that ending his life would protect his family from the exposure,” Kearns’ cousin said. 

In the note left for his family, Kearns accused Robinhood of allowing him to pile on too much risk. He explained his methods, but said in hindsight, he had “no clue” what he was doing.

His last written words were: “How was a 20 year old with no income able to get assigned almost a million dollars worth of leverage?” 

“Robinhood built out its trading platform to look much like a videogame to attract young users and minimize the appearance of real-world risk,” the lawsuit read.

In a statement, Robinhood spokeswoman said the company was devastated by Kearns’ death. She said Robinhood made a series of improvements to the app since the tragic death, including allowing users to exercise contracts, offering additional guidance and education and live support for some customers.

Written ByHaley Weger

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