Some people may think of caffeine as a "harmless" drug, but the perception is dubious at best. Though unusual, it is entirely possible to overdose on caffeine, and the number of emergency room visit precipitated by consumption of energy drinks more than doubled between 2007 and 2011, from 10,068 to 20,783. Nevertheless, a jury in California decided in favor of an energy drink manufacturer in a product liability suit alleging that consumption of caffeinated energy drinks caused a heart attack in a teenager that led to debilitating brain damage.
The plaintiff suffered a heart attack in 2013 when he was 18 years old. He filed a lawsuit the following year alleging that the caffeine in the energy drinks he consumed caused the heart attack that led to high medical bills as well as limiting his ability to work due to brain damage. His attorney claims that the judge in the case excluded several scientific studies suggesting that energy drinks can cause irregular heart rhythms and stated that he and his client plan to appeal the decision.
The attorney representing the energy drink company counters that energy drinks are safe and the amount of caffeine contained in a 16-ounce energy drink is less than the amount in a coffee drink of the same size from a popular chain of coffee houses. The jury deliberated for 15 minutes before returning its verdict.
The suit is significant because it is the first case of its kind to go to trial. There have been similar suits against this and other energy drink manufacturers in the past, but the courts have either dismissed them or the parties settled them out of court.
People who have come to harm as the result of unsafe products have the right to seek justice and may find it helpful to consult an attorney.