20-year-old Alex Kearns took his own life last June mistakenly believing he'd lost nearly $750,000 in a risky bet on Robinhood, the stock-trading app where he started trading as a teenager.
His parents filed a lawsuit, first obtained by CBS News, on Monday accusing Robinhood of wrongful death, negligent infliction of emotional distress and unfair business practices.
The Kearns believe Alex's inexperience is what got him into trouble after a transaction last year. On June 11, he saw Robinhood restricted his account reflecting what appeared to be a negative balance of $730,000.
Later that night, at 3:26 a.m., the company sent an automated email demanding Alex take "immediate action," requesting a payment of more than $170,000 in just a few days.
In fact, according to the family's attorneys, Alex may not have lost money at all, because of the way the options bets were structured.
"He thought he blew up his life. He thought he screwed up beyond repair," Dan Kearns said.
Robinhood had no customer service phone number, but Alex emailed its support address three times late that night and the following morning. He asked for help understanding what had happened, and whether he could still offset the losses with another trade.
Alex wrote, "I was incorrectly assigned more money than I should have, my bought puts should have covered the puts I sold. Could someone please look into this?"
In response, he received an automated message: "Thanks for reaching out to our support team!" The email said, "We wanted to let you know that we're working to get back to you as soon as possible, but that our response time to you may be delayed." The company assigned him a case number, 06849753.
Later that day, the sheriff knocked on the Kearns family's front door to deliver the news: Alex was dead.
The day after Alex took his own life, Robinhood sent an automated email suggesting the trade had been resolved and he didn't owe any money.
"Great news!" The email read, "We're reaching out to confirm that you've met your margin call and we've lifted your trade restrictions. If you have any questions about your margin call, please feel free to reach out. We're happy to help!"