Red Bull Lawsuit Claims Energy Drink Caused Fatal Heart Problems

The makers of Red Bull face a wrongful death lawsuit after a 44-year old man who suffered a fatal aortic dissection, and other heart problems that his family alleges were caused by side effects of the energy drink

The complaint (PDF) was filed late last month in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia over the death of William Jacob Wade in August 2014.

The wrongful death lawsuit was brought by Wade’s mother, Ann Edenfield Lemley, alleging that consumers have not been adequate warned about the heart risks with Red Bull and other popular energy drinks.

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Wade was co-owner of Old Savannah Estates, Antiques & Auction Co., and Furniture Doctor. He was also a musician and artist. According to the lawsuit, drinking Red Bull caused Wade to suffer aortic dissection, hypertension and other heart problems, which ultimately led to his death.

“Defendant failed to conduct adequate testing, studies or clinical testing and research, and similarly failed to conduct adequate marketing surveillance regarding Red Bull’s adverse effects upon consumption of this product,” the lawsuit states. “Despite Defendant’s representations to the contrary, Red Bull cans consumed by Mr. Wade were not safe or fit for the use for which they were intended.”

The case is one of a growing number of lawsuits over Red Bull and other popular energy drinks, such as Monster, Rockstar and others, which allege that manufacturers failed to warn about the risk of heart attacks, strokes, kidney problems and sudden death linked to the beverages.

Energy Drink Health Concerns

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.

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.


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