August 9, 2013

The mother of a 19-year-old who regularly consumed Monster energy drinks has sued the beverage maker after her son died of cardiac arrest.  The suit, filed in California Superior Court on June 25, alleges that Monster Beverage Corporation encourages teens and young adults to consume their drinks quickly and fails to provide safety warnings about health risks.

The wrongful death and product liability lawsuit claims that Monster ignored studies linking unhealthy side effects with high caffeine content found in Monster energy drinks and resisted providing safety labels on its products.  Monster “intentionally withheld, suppressed and concealed from consumers information relating to the risks of adverse health effects upon consumption of this product,” the lawsuit claims.

Alex Morris, the plaintiff’s deceased son, drank two 16-oz. cans of Monster energy drinks per day for three years prior his death.  Morris collapsed on July 1, 2012, and went into cardiac arrest after drinking two energy drinks in a 24-hour period.  The autopsy report listed his cause of death as “cardiac arrhythmia due to cardiomyopathy.”  He is survived by his mother Paula Morris, the plaintiff in the case.

The suit filed in Alameda County accuses Monster of, among other things, defective product design, failure to warn consumers, negligence, fraud, and wrongful death.

Morris’ lawsuit follows a suit last year by the family of a 14-year-old in Maryland who sued Monster after she drank two 24-oz. cans of Monster energy drinks and died.  In that suit, Monster claimed that the 14-year-old died due to a preexisting condition and not because of drinking energy drinks.  “Monster is very sorry for the family’s loss, but the facts do not support placing the blame of [the 14-year-old’s] untimely passing on Monster beverages,” Monster’s lawyer stated in a press release.

Dennis Herrera, San Francisco’s city attorney, sued the Corona, Calif.-based energy drink maker in May over the level of stimulants in its beverages.  The lawsuit accuses Monster energy drinks of causing brain seizures and cardiac arrests and marketing its drinks to children as young as six-years-old.  Monster filed a countersuit claiming Herrera is seeking publicity, that its products have less caffeine than Starbucks coffee, and that the lawsuit unconstitutionally burdens commercial free speech.

Medical professionals and government agencies continue to question the safety of energy drinks with high levels of caffeine and other stimulants.  The Food and Drug Administration is looking into deaths connected with energy drinks, including five reports linked to Monster drinks, but stated reports do not conclusively prove a causal link.  The FDA does not currently regulate the amount of caffeine contained in energy drinks, but does limit the amount contained in colas.  The American Medical Association recently voted for a policy banning the marketing of energy drinks to anyone under 18.

Energy drinks contain massive and excessive amounts of caffeine that may lead to a host of health problems in young people, including heart problems, and banning companies from marketing these products to adolescents is a common sense action that we can take to protect the health of American kids,” Dr. Alexander Ding, AMA board member, said in a June 18 release.