Monster Energy Drink Company Faces Lawsuit and FDA Investigation

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Oct 23, 2012

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Popular energy drink, Monster Energy, has come under investigation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after five people have died and one suffered a non-fatal heart attack.  The reported deaths date back to 2004, and have not officially been linked to Monster, but have aroused the interest of the FDA.  Reports indicate that consumers may have an adverse reaction after consuming the highly caffeinated drink, and suggest that in some instances this reaction can cause death.

Monster Energy Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The FDA investigation comes on the heels of a wrongful death lawsuit against Monster Energy following the death of a teenage girl.  The parents of a 14 year old girl in California have filed a lawsuit alleging Monster Energy caused their daughter’s death after she died of cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity.  Although the medical examiner also found that the teenager had an inherited disorder that can weaken blood vessels, her parents allege Monster failed to provide adequate warning of the risks associated with its product.

In order to succeed in a wrongful death lawsuit against Monster Energy, the parents will need to demonstrate that the company failed to properly warn about the dangers of its product.  The parents will need to either prove Monster knew about the risks associated with the high levels of caffeine in each drink, or that the company should have known about the risks, but didn’t because of failure to properly test the product.  Companies that distribute products into the market have a responsibility to not only comply with government regulations, but to also be aware of any potentially fatal side effects.  Products liability law holds companies liable for damages caused to consumers unless the consumer misused the product or ignored safety warnings.

Monster Energy drinks contain warning labels on containers that state the beverage is “not recommended” for children and people sensitive to caffeine.  Even if the young girl, who had a disorder that weakened her blood vessels, is considered “sensitive to caffeine,” the quality of Monster’s warning label may not protect the company from legal liability.  Stating something is “not recommended” can be a far cry from providing adequate safety warning.  The wrongful death lawsuit against Monster Energy is in its early stages, but more information and evidence will be revealed as Monster responds and the litigation moves forward.  The company has stated it denies responsibility for the unfortunate death of the California girl, and that it intends to defend the lawsuit. 

Concerns Over Energy Drink Safety

Monster Energy drinks, which contain 7 times the caffeine of a cup of coffee, have become increasingly popular over the last few years.  As all energy drinks have become better sellers, Monster has seen its company profits rise dramatically.  Currently, the energy drink market is relatively unregulated by the FDA, but the increase in sales has brought more scrutiny to the safety of the highly caffeinated beverages.  The FDA limits the amount of caffeine that a regular soda can contain, but does not have any such regulation for energy drinks at this time.

In August, the FDA denied to take action on caffeine levels in energy drinks, stating that the agency had insufficient evidence to pass new regulations.  The FDA’s response occurred before it received the medical reports after the death of the teenager in California, and pressure on the agency to change its stance may come from Congress.  Senator Richard Durbin (Illinois, D) has already issued a letter to the FDA asking it to regulate energy drinks, and more pressure could follow depending on the result of the lawsuit and the FDA investigation

The Food and Drug Administration takes reports of deaths following the consumption of products very seriously, and its investigation could have a ripple effect for every company that distributes energy drinks.  It is worth noting throughout this process that a handful of deaths, while tragic, represent a small fraction in terms of the number of consumers of energy drinks.  Monster, and other energy drink companies, have seen sales dramatically rise as millions of Americans consume the highly caffeinated product.  The FDA will evaluate the causes of death in its Monster Energy investigation, and will determine if there is concern enough to warrant regulatory or legal action.

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