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Energy Drinks and Wrongful Death Claims

Many individuals in the United States rely on coffee to get them through the day. Some need coffee to help wake them up in the morning, others need it to give them a lift in the afternoon and still others need it to help them stay away later in the day, particularly if they are working the night shift. It is not coffee per se that people need, but rather the caffeine in the coffee. Caffeine in small doses is known to boost energy levels and is believed to be safe. Caffeine in high doses has been linked to a variety of heart problems including atrial fibrillation, heart arrhythmia and myocardial infarction. All of these conditions can lead to death. 

Not everyone drinks coffee. Those who don’t turn to other beverages, like energy drinks, to get an extra boost. Energy drinks have actually been around for decades, with Japanese company Taisho being credited with creating the first energy drink in 1962, called Lipovitan. It was marketed as an “herbal emerging tonic.” 

It was in the 1980’s and early 1990’s that energy drinks started to become more widely available in the United States. Red Rull, Jolt Cola, and Josta all came into existence. The 2000’s is when more brands entered the market and Rockstar and Monster Energy came into existence. It is estimated that energy drink sales were almost $14 million dollars in 2021. That is an increase of almost $3 million in sales from only 4 years earlier in 2017. 

Are Energy Drinks Safe?

The FDA requires that beverages, like soda, contain no more than 71 milligrams of caffeine, or .02%, in a 12 ounce serving. Energy drinks are marketed as dietary food supplements and/or nutritional supplements. That means that the FDA does not regulate them, and therefore there is no requirement that the amount of caffeine be listed on the label or that they not exceed the 71 milligram/12 ounce limit.

Energy drinks typically contain extremely high levels of caffeine in addition to other ingredients like taurine and guarana, which are both stimulants that.either contain caffeine or produce effects similar to those caused by caffeine. It is estimated that Monster Energy drinks contain around 240 milligrams of caffeine per serving. Some believe that this number is actually higher because of other ingredients like taurine and guarana. Some energy drinks like Monster, also contain the herbal supplement Panax Ginseng. The National Institute of Health advises that Ginseng Panax not be consumed with caffeine. In addition, most energy drinks are sold in large sizes such as 24 and 32 ounces, therefore containing more than one serving. 

Over the past decade, a number of studies have been done on energy drinks. These include:

  • a 2015 Canadian study done on teenagers which found a link between energy drink consumption and traumatic brain injury, Those teenagers who suffered from a traumatic brain injury (defined as losing consciousness for 5 minutes or more, or being hospitalized for at least one night) where 7 times more likely to have ingested 5 energy drinks in the prior week then those who suffered no brain injury; 
  • a 2019 study published in Volume 8, No. 11 of the Journal of the American Heart Association which determined that energy drinks affected the heart’s electrical activity and raised blood pressure. Both of which could lead to heart attack or other heart related events.
  • a study published in the March 2021 volume of the Journal Food and Chemical Toxicology which determined that human heart cells (which had been grown in a lab, live subjects were not tested) showed an increased heart beat when exposed to energy drinks. Increased heart beat can lead to stroke, heart failure and cardiac arrest. 

Monster Beverage Lawsuits 

Numerous lawsuits have been filed against Monster Beverage Company since 2013. One of earliest, and more publicized cases, was a wrongful death claim filed by the family of a 14-year old Maryland girl who suffered cardiac arrest after drinking two 24-ounce Monster drinks in a 24 hour period. Wendy Crossland and Richard Fournier, individually and as surviving parents of Anais Fournier v. Monster Beverage Corporation. 

Anna Fournier had a heart attack and fell unconscious on December 17, 2011; she never regained consciousness. She was placed in a medically induced coma in an attempt to alleviate the swelling in her brain. She remained on life support until December 23rd when her parents made the difficult decision to terminate support. Anna’s death certificate listed “cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity” as the cause of death. 

Anna’s parents alleged that the two drinks she ingested contained a total of 480 milligrams of caffeine, which is equal to that in fourteen 12oz. cans of Coke. They argued that Monster did not properly warn about the dangers associated with ingesting Monster and that Monster marketed specifically to teenagers and young adults. The case was settled in 2015 for an undisclosed amount of money, though the Fournier’s attorney was quoted as saying the family received “substantial dollars.”

At the time of Anna Fournier’s death in 2011, more than 20,000 emergency room visits were linked to energy drinks and 5 others had died. 

Shortly after the Fournier’s filed suit, a similar wrongful death case was filed by the family of a 19year old young man, Alex Morris, who suffered cardiac arrest after ingesting two 16 ounce Monster energy drinks on the day she died. Alex’s cause of death was listed as cardiac arrhythmia and cardiomyopathy. 

In 2016 four additional lawsuits were filed against Monster alleging injuries including strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure and brain damage. 

Discuss Your Wrongful Death or Personal Injury Case with Our Charlotte, North Carolina Attorneys 

The Charlotte, NC lawyers at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC are experienced wrongful death and personal injury lawyers. They are available to discuss your loved one’s wrongful death or your  personal injury with you and help you navigate the legal process if there is a legal claim. Please contact our office at 704-714-1450. There is no fee for an initial consultation.

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