Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Can too much caffeine cause death? Perhaps manufacturers of "energy drinks" should be concerned

Friends of the blog at Abnormal Use have posted a short update on an issue that has been raised before regarding so called "energy drinks." According to a recently filed claim, the parents of a 14-year old are arguing that their daughter went into “cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity” after two drinking two 24-ounce cans of Monster Energy on consecutive days. According to the report, the high caffeine level of the drink complicated an existing heart valve condition in the teen. She was taken to the hospital but died six days later.

Obviously, the big question is going to be whether the Monster Energy drink should be considered to be unreasonably dangerous given its high level of caffeine. This is one of the main allegations in the lawsuit. Simply put, that the product is defective in its design because it simply contains too much caffeine.

Accoring to Abnormal Use, one can of Monster Energy contain 240 mg of caffeine, while a single venti (20oz) cup of regular coffee from Starbucks contains 415mg of caffeine.

This seems to suggest that the level of caffeine in the drink is actually not that high.  But this, in my opinion, does not take into account what I think is the most interesting part of the issue:   the marketing scheme for the product. This is a product that is clearly targetting younger consumers. For example, it sponsors “X-games” type activities. For that reason, the question that needs to be explored is not whether the level of caffeine is OK when compared with a cup of coffee, but whether the level of caffeine is too high for younger consumers. I don’t know the answer to that….

Also, the Monster drinnk cans contain a warning that states: “Limit 3 cans per day. Not recommended for children, pregnant women, or people sensitive to caffeine.” 

Apparently it is unclear whether this warning was on the cans when the plaintiffs’ daughter consumed the Monster Energy, but assuming that it was, the question remains whether the warning should be considered to be adequate under the law. 

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