See more of the story

In April 2020, Devin Norring was having migraines and pain from a cracked molar. With the COVID shutdown canceling his dental appointments, the 19-year-old from Hastings went online to buy Percocet for pain. Instead, he got counterfeit pills containing fentanyl. That night, Devin made Eggo waffles and told his mom he'd eat them in bed. "I love you, goof," she told him.

Devin died in his bedroom. His younger brother found him the next day.

After learning he bought the pills on Snapchat, the Norrings became one of 64 families suing Snapchat's parent company, Snap Inc., accusing the app of being an unregulated online drug marketplace. Of those 64 families, 62 lost a loved one to fentanyl overdoses. The youngest was 13, the oldest 22; most were minors.

Four years after her son's death, Bridgette Norring wheeled her rollerbag into the Hastings High School classroom where Devin had health class just a few years before. Her reason for filing the lawsuit is the same as her reason for talking with kids at Devin's old high school: linking her twin nemeses, fentanyl dealers and too-permissive social media apps, to protect teens from what killed her son.

Next to the classroom door, Norring glanced at a poster.

"GONE IN A SNAP," the poster read, showing the logo of Snapchat, the social media messaging app hugely popular among teens. It showed 42 American teens or young adults who died from fentanyl purchased from dealers via Snapchat. Nine lived in Minnesota. Three were from Hastings. One photo, of a tall, wiry teen clutching a football in his Hastings Raiders jersey, was Devin.

"He was 19 years old when he lost his life to fentanyl poisoning," Norring told the class. "Tomorrow will be four years."

A judge rejected a motion to dismiss the Snapchat case earlier this year, which Snap is challenging. If the California Courts of Appeals hears the appeal, it could be delayed a year or longer. If the court will not hear the appeal, Norring's attorney hopes the case goes to trial next year.

"These children are not drug users, not drug addicts," said Norring's attorney, Laura Marquez-Garrett, a senior attorney with the Social Media Victims Law Center. "They're children. Children with the same poor judgment and curiosity that most children have. The difference is, now Snapchat has upped the stakes. They've given dealers a way to matchmake dealers with children."

In cases like the Norring family's, Snap has argued in court that the lawsuits are based on false and inflammatory allegations. In an emailed statement to the Star Tribune, a Snap spokesperson said the company deeply empathizes with families who've lost loved ones in the fentanyl epidemic.

"At Snap, we are working diligently to stop drug dealers from abusing our platform, and deploy technologies to proactively identify and shut down dealers, support law enforcement efforts to help bring dealers to justice, and educate our community and the general public about the dangers of fentanyl," the statement said.

On April 3, Hastings High School students listen to Bridgette Norring share the story of how her son, Devin, died of a fentanyl overdose.
On April 3, Hastings High School students listen to Bridgette Norring share the story of how her son, Devin, died of a fentanyl overdose.

Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune


In Minnesota and nationwide, the fentanyl epidemic has exploded in recent years into the most deadly drug epidemic in American history. In 2021, nationwide drug overdose deaths surpassed 100,000 for the first time, then climbed to nearly 110,000 in 2022, according to the CDC. The vast majority of those deaths were from synthetic opioids, mostly fentanyl.

In the 2010s, around 300 to 400 Minnesotans died annually in opioid overdoses. That number has skyrocketed, with more than 1,000 Minnesotans dying from opioid overdoses in 2022, according to numbers from the Minnesota Department of Health. Roughly the same number of Minnesotans died from opioid overdoses between 2020 and 2022 as had died from opioid overdoses in the past eight years combined. Earlier this year saw what law enforcement called the biggest fentanyl bust in Minnesota history, where 280,000 pills were smuggled here inside stuffed animals.

The families suing Snapchat seek financial damages, but more important is that Snapchat makes its product safer for children, Marquez-Garrett said. One of Snapchat's defining features is that pictures and messages are available for only a short time, a feature that dealers love because it destroys the evidence, Marquez-Garrett said. Snap's extreme encryption and privacy features are especially concerning in an app marketed to teens, she said.

Families want Snapchat to make their data more traceable for law enforcement, for instance.

Attorneys aim to learn what Snap has and hasn't done to safeguard children. Snap's attorneys argue that Section 230, the controversial 1996 federal law that protects online service providers from legal liability for user-created content — ought to apply here.

"Section 230 isn't absolute immunity," Marquez-Garrett said. "We want the truth."


In front of the ninth-grade classroom, flanked by her adult daughter and teenage son, Norring clicked through a slideshow. She showed Devin as a regular kid: pictures in his football uniform, at high school graduation, posing by a Paul Bunyan statue with his siblings.

Her voice was flat. She's given this presentation so many times before. One day per semester the past three years, she drives to Devin's school in her SUV with a sticker reading, "(EXPLETIVE) FENTANYL." She tells her family's tragedy over and over. She tells about the kid who loved doing tricks on his bike, who was planning to go to college in California and learn the music business. Inside her rollerbag was swag from the foundation she started in her son's honor, like cards showing the signs of an opioid overdose, as well as a vial of naloxone, which reverses the effects of fentanyl.

In the classroom, Devin's older sister, Hayley, piped up.

"Sometimes I feel like Devin's just on a vacation somewhere and he's going to come back one day," she said. "He's not. It sucks. Do you know how heartbreaking it was to come out of my bedroom door every day and see his door shut, and he was never going to come out of it again?"

Devin Norring's sister, Hayley Norring, talks to students after her family's presentation at Hastings High School on April 3.
Devin Norring's sister, Hayley Norring, talks to students after her family's presentation at Hastings High School on April 3.

Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

Norring clicked through her slideshow. She showed 11 separate recent headlines of Minnesota youths who overdosed. She showed a slide pointing out Hastings as having the highest fatal overdose rate in Dakota County between 2016 and 2022. (Hennepin County's rate of drug overdose deaths the past couple of years is about three times higher than Dakota County's.)

Norring's life has been consumed with activism since her son's death. She serves on a congressional mental health and substance abuse council. She has lobbied on Capitol Hill more times than she can count, including for the Kids Online Safety Act. She attended a congressional hearing last year with leaders of social media companies, at one point angering Capitol Police when she stood and displayed a picture of Devin. She has spoken at high schools around the Twin Cities. This week she received a public health award from Dakota County.

She knows some parents don't love her speaking about fentanyl at high schools, like it ruins children's innocence. Those parents can opt their children out, she said. For her, this topic is too urgent. She wishes Devin and her family had been more scared about fentanyl, as well as the excesses of social media, four years ago.

"It's always been about Snapchat making changes, not money," she said. "They could stop this. Overseas they have strict rules. This is the biggest open-air drug market there is."