Morris had been a regular consumer of Monster Energy drinks since he was 16. He was known to consume two or three cans a day. In the 24 hours before his death, he had ingested at least two 16-ounce cans of Monster Energy purported by the manufacturer to provide users with “increased energy and stamina, weight loss, and enhanced physical and/or mental performance.”
On April 27, 2015, attorney Kevin Goldberg is heading to court, armed with stacks of scientific studies from dozens of medical organizations, scientific journals and FDA reports. The Alex Morris case is the first wrongful death case to go to trial against an energy drink company.
“We have literally dozens, if not hundreds of adverse effect reports filed with the FDA,” says Goldberg.“The American Academy of Pediatrics has come out and said that children should not drink energy drinks. The Mayo Clinic has recognized the dangers of energy drinks, the American Heart Association has recognized the dangers and the peer-reviewed scientific literature is piling up really quickly.”
According to a December 2012 Consumer Report cited in the Morris wrongful death suit against Monster Energy, a 24-ounce can of Monster Energy contains 240 milligrams of caffeine combined with guarana, a plant extract that contains caffeine and taurine, a substance with properties similar to caffeine.
Goldberg also points to an American Academy of Pediatrics opinion that “the safe level of caffeine consumption by adolescents is no more than 100 milligrams per day from sources.” The two cans that Alex Morris consumed in the hours before he died contained 320 milligrams of caffeine.
Goldberg will argue on behalf of his client, Alex Morris’s mother, Paula, that Monster Energy knew or should have known, among other things, that its drinks presented and continue to present a substantial danger.”
The suit alleges that Monster Energy “failed to warn consumers of the true risks, scope and severity of potential side effects of the Monster drinks that Alex Morris consumed such as increased risk of stroke, blood clots, heart attack and cardiac arrhythmia.”
Goldberg, working in conjunction with two other firms, the R. Rex Parris Law Firm in Lancaster, California, and the Miles & Stockbridge firm in Baltimore, Maryland, has a number of cases against Monster piling up.
“They are either death cases or heart attack cases where people have survived the heart attack but it always seems to be a cardiac event triggered by the caffeine in the drinks and the synergistic effect of the other ingredients like taurine and guarana,” says Goldberg, who will speak as an expert on energy drink litigation to a Mass Torts Conference on this subject in a few weeks’ time. “There is sugar in there, but some of these compounds also interact with the caffeine on cellular levels and cause damage to people’s heart.”
Goldberg, from the firm of Goldberg, Finnegan & Mester, also represents the family of 14-year-old Anais Fournier in a wrongful death suit set to begin in August against Monster.
In a 24-hour period before the evening of December 17, 2012, the Maryland teenager consumed two 24-ounce cans of Monster Energy purchased at a local candy store. She went into cardiac arrest, spent six days in a coma and died. According to the suit filed against Monster, the cause of death was listed as “caffeine toxicity.”
Monster Energy was contacted by LawyersandSettlements but declined to comment on the issues.
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Goldberg points to another piece of information he has in his arsenal of evidence. The Morris wrongful death suit notes that increases in sales coincide with an increase in the number of emergency room visits related to caffeine overdoses - up from 1,128 in 2005 to 16,055 in 2008. A majority of those cases involved young people between the ages of 12 and 25.
The case will be heard in the Superior Court of California for Alameda County before a jury.