Fourteen year-old Anais Fournier, of Hagerstown, was at the mall with friends on December 16, 2011. Her friends told the Record Herald that Fournier drank one 24-ounce energy drink that day, and that she drank another one less than twenty-four hours later. On December 17, she went into cardiac arrest. Doctors at a Baltimore hospital induced a coma to prevent her brain from swelling, but six days later, she died, having never regained consciousness.
Fournier’s death certificate lists “cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity” as her official cause of death. She reportedly suffered a complete lack of oxygen to her brain when she lost consciousness. Fournier had a heart condition that can cause heart valve malfunctions. Doctors did not directly connect her heart condition to the arrhythmia that caused her death, but heart conditions are among the risk factors in scientific studies of energy drinks.
The forty-eight ounces consumed by Fournier reportedly contained 480 milligrams of caffeine, which according to TODAY Health is almost five times the limit that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends, and roughly equal to the amount of fourteen 12-ounce cans of Coca-Cola. Many beverages marketed as “energy drinks” contain ingredients like guarana and taurine that themselves contain caffeine, as well as high levels of sodium and sugar. The Record Herald reports that doctors advise parents to keep such energy drinks away from children, citing potential side effects like high blood pressure, seizures, and even death. Energy drinks can be especially dangerous for people with diabetes, high or low blood sugar, or heart conditions.
Fournier’s death has led her family, friends, and others to call for regulation of energy drinks by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Energy drinks are reportedly categorized as “nutritional supplements,” and so are not subject to the FDA’s limit of 71 milligrams of caffeine per 12 ounces in soda. They are also not subject to the FDA’s safety testing and labeling requirements. A press release from the American Beverage Association, issued about a month before Fournier’s death and quoted by the Record Herald, alleged that energy drinks have FDA approval, and that they contain less caffeine than a typical cup of coffee. While an 8-ounce energy drink contains between 60 and 100 milligrams of caffeine, according to the press release, a similar amount of coffee contains between 104 and 192 milligrams.
Energy drinks are subject to more and more scrutiny as people suffer injuries and even death after consuming moderate to large quantities. Scientific literature has shown that energy drinks might potentially pose health risks to children and teenagers. Fournier’s case is one of many recent tragedies seemingly related to energy drinks. Under a products liability or negligence theory, a manufacturer could be liable for injuries or deaths linked to energy drinks.
The Maryland personal injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen are skilled at pursuing justice for people injured due to faulty or defective products. Contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949 for a free and confidential consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Maryland Teen Dies After Falling from Moving Vehicle, Mother Blames Alcoholic Beverage Manufacturer, Maryland Accident Law Blog, March 5, 2012
Reliability of Federal Product Safety Database Questioned in Lawsuit, Maryland Accident Law Blog, October 27, 2011
DC Area Teen’s Family Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Four Loko Manufacturer, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, May 30, 2011
Photo credit: ‘Energy drinks’ by Grendelkhan at en.Wikipedia [GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons