The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has decided to consolidate all 5-Hour Energy lawsuits brought throughout the federal court system, centralizing the cases before one judge as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.
According to a Transfer Order (PDF) issued on June 5, all lawsuits filed over the sales and marketing of the controversial energy “shot” will be transferred to U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez in the Central District of California for coordinated handling during pretrial proceedings.
5-Hour Energy is a popular energy drink distributed by Innovation Ventures, LLC, which does business as Living Essentials. The product is categorized as a dietary supplement, meaning that the manufacturer has been able to avoid FDA regulation.
Marketing statements made by the manufacturer indicate that 5 Hour Energy provides “hours of energy now – no crash later,” suggesting that users will not experience the sudden drop in energy typically associated with other high-caffeine energy drink products. According to National Advertising Division (NAD), part of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, there is data that disproves the claim, which is at least five years old.
There are currently at least nine lawsuits filed against Living Essentials filed in eight U.S. District Courts. All of the lawsuits involve similar allegations that Living Essentials practiced deceptive and unlawful advertising and marketing of 5-Hour Energy. Consolidation was proposed by the manufacturer.
Centralizing the 5-Hour Energy litigation before one judge is designed to reduce duplicative discovery, eliminate conflicting rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses, and the courts. As additional cases are brought in the future, they will be transferred to Judge Gutierrez’s court for coordinated handling before trial.
All Energy Drink Products Under Closer Scrutiny
The energy drink industry has come under increased scrutiny over the past year, as concerns mount about the potentialhealth risks associated with energy drink products and various marketing claims that encourage young users to consume large quantities of the highly caffeinated beverages.
Most of the recent media attention has come following the a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the makers of Monster Energy Drinks, which alleged that the popular beverage caused the death of a 14-year old girl, who died after drinking two cans of Monster in a 24 hour period.
According to information released by the FDA, there have been at least 13 deaths linked to 5 Hour Energy Shots. Federal officials indicate that they do not actually know for certain what’s in 5-Hour Energy, as the two-ounce shots are classified as dietary supplements, meaning they are not subject to FDA regulation.