Panera faces second lawsuit over death of man from charged lemonades

Last December, CB talked about Panera’s Charged Lemonade energy drink. The drink contains almost 300mg of caffeine, which makes one single drink equal to almost three cups of coffee. It also has more caffeine and sugar than Red Bull or a Monster energy drink! It’s like someone who works at Panera’s corporate office drank a Starbucks Refreshers and said, “Let’s make these, only with four times the amount of caffeine.”

In October, the family of a 21-year-old who passed away after drinking a Charged Lemonade filed a lawsuit against Panera. The young woman, Sarah Katz, had a heart condition called QT syndrome and actively avoided energy drinks because of the health risks that caffeine and other stimulants posed. The lawsuit included photos of the menu and beverage dispensers, which showed that the Charged Lemonade was advertised as a “plant-based and clean” beverage that contained as much caffeine as a dark roast coffee. Sadly, a second person with pre-existing conditions has also passed away after drinking Charged Lemonade. His family is also suing Panera for wrongful death, alleging that he also avoided energy drinks for health reasons.

Panera Bread is once again being blamed for causing someone’s death with its highly caffeinated “Charged Lemonade” energy drink. The family of 46-year-old Dennis Brown has filed a wrongful death suit against the chain this week, alleging that Brown’s heart-related death in early October was caused by the drink. It’s the second such claim made against the company this year, but Panera has denied responsibility for either death.

This latest lawsuit was filed by Brown’s mother and siblings in the Superior Court of Delaware, though the actual death took place in Fleming Island, Florida. According to the suit, Brown had been a long-time fan of the chain, but only recently began to regularly drink Charged Lemonades. On October 9, he reportedly ordered the drink and refilled it twice before starting to walk home. During the walk, he experienced an ultimately fatal “cardiac event.”

Brown was known to have a chromosomal deficiency disorder that left him with mild intellectual disability and blurry vision, but he was living independently. He also had high blood pressure, which may have contributed to his death. According to a death certificate shared by the family’s lawyers and viewed by the New York Times, Brown died of a “cardiac arrest due to hypertensive disease.”

The wrongful death claim is the second filed against Panera in about two months. In late October, the family of 21-year-old Sarah Katz alleged that her fatal cardiac arrest in September 2022 was similarly instigated by the energy drink. Both families are being represented by the law firm Kline & Specter.

Like Brown, Katz was known to have a pre-existing cardiovascular condition: long QT syndrome. It’s generally recommended that people with such conditions moderate their consumption of caffeine and other stimulants commonly found in energy drinks since it might raise their risk of heart problems.Both families claim that Brown and Katz actively avoided energy drinks, but that Panera’s marketing did little to appropriately warn customers about the Charged Lemonade’s high caffeine content.

According to the company’s website, the large Charged Lemonade is estimated to contain about 390 milligrams of caffeine—just below the 400 milligrams a day cap recommended for most people by the Food and Drug Administration. However, the lawsuits note that workers are expected to mix the drink on site, which could lead to varying amounts of caffeine per serving. They also allege that Panera did not clearly label the lemonade as an energy drink, instead comparing its caffeine content as similar to their Dark Roast coffee.

Following the initial lawsuit, Panera claimed that it would display “enhanced” disclosures about the high caffeine content of their Charged Lemonade. But at least for the time being, Panera is denying any direct culpability for either Brown or Katz’s deaths.

“Panera expresses our deep sympathy for Mr. Brown’s family,” Panera said in a statement responding to the second lawsuit. “Based on our investigation we believe his unfortunate passing was not caused by one of the company’s products. We view this lawsuit, which was filed by the same law firm as a previous claim, to be equally without merit.”

[From Gizmodo]

This is so, so sad. It’s scary and frustrating how restaurants and companies will deceptively market something. Even if they list the amount of caffeine, does the average person really know what the suggested daily intake of caffeine is? We grew up with things like sugar being villainized but values are not usually attached to define “too much caffeine.” Panera absolutely needs to get the word out better that the Charged Lemonade is not a lemonade with caffeine, but a lemonade-flavored energy drink. In the meantime, the drink’s dangers need to go viral on Tik Tok or various social medias. *Clears throat.* Back in my day, we knew what drinks had too much caffeine in them because our parents said it would stunt your growth (it doesn’t) and kids at school would repeat the (unfounded) rumors of their effects on male fertility. Our condolences go out to the two families who have lost their loved ones. Hopefully, Panera takes this seriously by putting actual warnings out there and lowering the drink’s caffeine levels in general.

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