The complaint was filed by Robert Villa, who says that he had a stroke shortly after drinking two cans of Four Loko that he purchased at the Aziz Convenience Store in Donna, Texas, in 2010.
Villa claims he felt his right arm and leg go numb and passed out until the next morning. The next evening, when conditions worsened and he suffered a headache and vomited, he went to a local hospital where he was diagnosed as having suffered a stroke.
The product liability lawsuit accuses Phusion Projects of failing to warn consumers about the possible side effects of Four Loko and is seeking $75,000 in compensatory damages for pain and suffering, emotional stress and mental anguish, as well as lost income. The lawsuit also calls for punitive damages.
Late last year the FDA issued warning letters to all manufacturers of alcoholic caffeinated beverages that the combination of alcohol and caffeine was dangerous, effectively shutting down the alcoholic energy drink industry.
Four Loko was the most popular alcoholic energy drink on the market before those drinks were banned, with an estimated $200 million in annual sales. Chicago-based Phusion Projects, the makers of Four Loko, have reformulated the drink and removed the caffeine, guarana and other ingredients that are normally used in so-called energy drinks.
In its previous formulation, Four Loko had a 12% alcohol content, equivalent to about four beers, and three times the amount of caffeine as a regular cup of coffee, all in a 23.5-ounce can that sold for as little as $2.75. After nine Washington state college students were hospitalized for binge drinking Four Loko, it was dubbed “blackout in a can.”
There are at least two other wrongful death lawsuits over Four Loko filed against Phusion Projects. One was filed by the family of John Donald Rupp III, who was 15 when he began to act erratic and ran into traffic and was fatally struck by a car after drinking Four Loko. The other lawsuit was filed by the family of Jason Keiran, a 20-year-old college student who drank a massive amount of Four Loko before shooting himself in the head with a .22-caliber pistol.
In October 2008, a group of one hundred scientists and physicians, led by a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, sent a petition to the FDA urging the agency to increase regulation of all energy drinks, including non-alcohol energy drinks, such as Red Bull, Rock Star, Monster and Full Throttle. The experts indicated that the wide disparity in caffeine and alcohol content in various brands of energy drinks is not properly noted on the products, increasing the risk of caffeine intoxication and alcohol-related injuries.
Photo Courtesy of Austin Uhler via Wikimedia Commons public domain.