Last year, the parents of Anais Fournier, a Maryland girl who died after drinking two 24-ounce Monster Energy drinks within 24 hours, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in the California Superior Court. Attorneys for Monster Beverage Corporation argue that Anais died of a pre-existing heart condition; however, the coroner’s report states that Anais death was caused by a cardiac arrhythmia, which resulted from caffeine toxicity. The California Superior Court did not dismiss the case, and instead ordered the case to mediation, which will occur in late 2013.
Monster Energy drink is a popular beverage that, according to Consumer Reports, contains about the same amount of caffeine per eight-ounce serving as a cup of coffee. However, Monster Energy drinks only come in 24-ounce containers, making each Monster Energy drink equivalent to about three cups of coffee.
Other plaintiffs have followed the Fourniers in suing Monster for products liability. Bloomberg News reports that the City of San Francisco sued Monster in 2013 for wrongful marketing practices, accusing the company of targeting children and youth despite known risks when those populations consume large amounts of caffeine.
Also in 2013, the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it is formally investigating the safety of food products and beverages which have caffeine added to them. This follows the 2012 announcement that the FDA is investigating thirteen deaths for which Monster Energy drink is blamed. Five-hour energy, a dietary supplement also laden with caffeine, has been implicated in 13 deaths and is also under investigation by the FDA.
Under Maryland products liability law, a company can be liable for damages caused by their product if they fail to properly warn consumers about the danger of the product. Monster energy drinks do carry the warning label: “not recommended for children, pregnant women, or people sensitive to caffeine.” The adequacy of this warning, though, may be suspect depending on the results of the FDA investigation and the outcome of lawsuits discussed above. Points at issue in these cases will likely be how dangerous a large amount of caffeine is for children or youth to consume, whether Monster Energy should have known about the danger, and whether Monster Energy properly warned consumers, particularly youth.
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