According to allegations raised in a product liability lawsuit filed by a man described as a “chronic consumer” of Monster Energy drinks, the highly caffeinated beverages caused him to suffer a near-fatal stroke due to an aneurysm and brain bleed caused by side effects of the energy drink.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Matthew Strouse and his wife in the California Superior Court of Orange County on February 11, claiming that the manufacturer failed to adequately warn consumers about the health risks associated with Monster Energy, and for years avoided FDA regulations to keep the contents of the drink a secret.
Strouse indicates that he consumed at least two cans of Monster Energy per day before experiencing serious problems on Valentine’s Day 2014. According to the lawsuit, he was flying a remote controlled helicopter with his father in a park when he began experiencing numbness and pain along his right side. He then experienced acute respiratory failure, was hospitalized and put on a ventilator.
Strouse suffered from seizures, respiratory failure and had to undergo a craniotomy to relieve pressure in his brain while in the hospital. He was diagnosed with an aneurysm that led to intracerebral hemorrhage.
As a result of the Monster Energy stroke, Strouse indicates that he has lost significant use of the extremities on the right side of his body and is unable to walk without using a cane. He now slurs his words and requires 24 hour assistance to perform basic bodily functions.
Monster Energy is a popular beverage, especially among teens and young adults, containing high levels of caffeine and other stimulants that are designed to provide consumers with a boost of energy. However, the energy drink has been linked to several reports health risks, including heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure and other potentially life-threatening health problems.
“Monster Energy Drinks are marketed as products that provide benefits to consumers in the form of increased energy and stamina, weight loss and enhanced physical performance,” the lawsuit filed by Strouse states. “In order to provide the marketed benefits, Monster Energy Drinks contain and rely primarily upon massive amounts of caffeine, a substance known for imposing adverse health effects upon consumers.”
The lawsuit accused Monster of avoiding FDA regulations for years by classifying the drink as a “dietary supplement,” which allowed the manufacturer to avoid disclosing the contents of the energy drink. Following concerns about the health risks, and heavy criticism from consumer advocates, Monster agreed to market it as a beverage regulated by the FDA in 2013.
As a result of the effort to escape FDA oversight for years, Monster Energy drinks were never adequately tested and did not provide proper warnings about the potential health risks for years, according to the complaint filed by Strouse and other consumers who have suffered severe health problems.
Strouse charges Monster with designing a defective product, failure to warn, negligence, fraudulent concealment and breach of implied warranty. His wife is suing for loss of consortium.
Energy Drink Litigation
This lawsuit is the latest in a growing number of Monster Energy drink lawsuits filed in recent years, often involving allegations that manufacturers placed their desire for profit before consumer safety.
A Monster wrongful death lawsuit is slated to go on trial in California Superior Court of Alemeda County in April, over claims that a 19-year-old died of a heart attack in 2012, after consuming at least two cans of Monster Energy a day over a period of three years.
Another wrongful death lawsuit over Monster Energy was filed in 2012, by the family of a 14 year old girl who died after going into cardiac arrest after consuming multiple cans of the heavily marketed beverage within a short period of time.
Energy drink manufacturers have compared the amount of caffeine in their products to that of hot beverages sold in coffee houses, but the products are often packaged in very large sizes and they are not sold in controlled environments like coffee shops, which typically would not serve young children.
Monster, Rockstar, Red Bull and other popular energy drinks are widely available in convenience stores, often located next to traditional soft drinks and packaged in very similar cans.
Although most individuals believe them to be safe, often consuming large numbers of the energy drinks in short periods of times, many contain pharmaceutical grade caffeine and additional caffeine from other natural sources. This much caffeine in one serving can cause a person’s heart to beat rapidly, increase blood pressure, or other nervous, digestive or cardiovascular system side effects, health experts warn.
Some energy drinks in many of the popular lines contain up to 400 mg of caffeine per can. In comparison, a cup of coffee typically has around 100 mg of caffeine.
Caffeine poisoning can occur in adults at levels higher than 400 mg a day; however children under 12 can experience caffeine poisoning at only 2.5 mg per 2.2 pounds of body weight.
The FDA is currently investigating health concerns surrounding the drinks, after a number of adverse event reports were submitted in recent years connecting energy drinks to severe injuries and deaths.
According to information released in 2012, at least 37 adverse event reports had been received by the FDA involving health problems from Monster Energy drinks, including at least six deaths.
Amid aggressive marketing by the manufacturers, energy drink sales increased 240% between 2004 and 2009, and the number of caffeine overdose emergency room visits increased from 1,128 in 2005 to 16,055 in 2008. Approximately 56% of those visits involved individuals between the ages of 12 and 25 years.