The makers of Monster Energy and the parents of a 14-year-old girl who died after drinking two bottles of the popular energy drink have been ordered by a California state court judge to participate in mediation to attempt to settle a wrongful death lawsuit filed last year.
The parents of Anais Fournier brought a lawsuit against Monster Beverage Corp. following her death in 2012, alleging that she suffered sudden heart problems that caused her death as a result of drinking two cans of the highly caffeinated Monster drinks within 24 hours.
While the parents had pushed for a trial date, the Court ordered mediation instead, which will begin November 26 in an attempt to resolve the case. There is no indication at this time whether the parties will be able to reach a Monster Energy drink settlement, as the manufacturers have denied that the drink contributed to the death, so the case could still end up before a jury.
A Maryland coroner who examined the girl said she died of heart problems caused by a caffeine overdose. However, she had an existing heart condition, and Monster Beverage Corp. has previously indicated that two experts hired to investigate the case determined that the drinks did not cause Fournier’s death.
According to allegations raised in the Monster energy drink lawsuit, Fournier’s parents argue that the company targeted children with its products and say that marketing encouraged teens and young adults to consume dangerous, sometimes lethal, levels of caffeine.
Last month, the City of San Francisco leveled similar accusations at the company in its own Monster Energy Drink lawsuit. Monster officials say the levels of caffeine are comparable to coffee served at Starbucks, but critics say that Starbucks does not advertise to children.
The energy drink industry has come under increased scrutiny following Fournier’s death. Most of the products have been marketed as dietary supplements, which allows the manufacturers to escape FDA regulations that require disclosure of nutritional data and ingredients. However, earlier this year Monster Energy drinks were reclassified as a beverage, which means that the company will now reveal the caffeine content and will be restricted to ingredients that the FDA considers “generally recognized as safe.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has warned that children should not consumer any energy drinks, as the risk of caffeine overdose may be especially harmful for children, who should not consumer more than 100 mg of caffeine in a day. Most energy drinks currently on the market contain more than that amount and some have nearly three times as much.
The FDA is currently investigating health concerns after numerous adverse event reports have been received in recent years that indicate the energy drinks have caused severe injuries and even death.