We reported not long ago that Panera Bread was slapped with a wrongful death suit over the passing of a young Philadelphia woman following a lunchtime indulgence in the chain’s ‘Charged’ Lemonade. Now a second death is being linked to beverage…
Twenty-one year old Sarah Katz of Philadelphia died of a heart attack after drinking ‘Charged’ Lemonade during a meal out with friends in September. Her case is a bit cloudy, though. She had a pre-existing condition that may have been amplified by her consumption of a large drink. And there’s some evidence that she was enrolled in a promotional program that entitled her to unlimited free refills.
Sara’s family is seeking unspecified, “compensatory and punitive damages.”
A second incident
On October 9 of this year, Dennis Brown ordered a ‘Charged’ Lemonade at his local Panera. Like Sara, he was reported to have consumed at least 2 refills over a span of about an hour and a half.
And Brown’s case is also complicated by what his family calls a chromosomal deficiency disorder, ADHD and high blood pressure. In addition, he suffered functional issues including ‘a mild intellectual disability” and blurry vision, along with developmental delay. His family asserts that he was nonetheless able to live independently. And he knew how important it was to avoid caffeinated drinks. Dennis dropped dead of a heart attack at the side of the road walking home from the restaurant.
Panera takes a hard line
While expressing ‘deep sympathy’ for Brown’s family, Panera still insists that, “based on our investigation, we believe his unfortunate passing was not caused by one of the company’s products.”
The company appears to question the veracity – or motives – of the legal firm handling both wrongful death suits. “We view this lawsuit, which was filed by the same law firm as a previous claim, to be equally without merit. Panera stands firmly by the safety of our products.”
The chemistry at issue
As I noted in the post chronicling Sara Katz’s death, “Panera says it followed all the rules formulating its Charged Lemonade. The company says the large size serving of the beverage contains 390 mg of caffeine. That comes in just short of the maximum safe ‘dosage’ of caffeine for healthy adults’ as defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: 400 mg. For comparison, that’s the equivalent of 4 to 5 cups of regular coffee.
“But Panera also states that 390 mg of caffeine is the same amount as one cup of their Dark Roast coffee. For me, the math just doesn’t add up.”
And what about the cumulative effect of all those refills?
Not to mention: “The resto chain also revealed that Charged Lemonade is mixed in each individual resto by staff. There’s no centralized system for regulating the amount of caffeine in the beverage that eventually gets into a customer’s cup. “Its caffeine content is not controlled and, in turn, has an innate and dangerous potential to vary,” the lawsuit says.
This could be a major whammy on Panera – especially if it’s found at fault in any way over the two deaths to date. And even more so if more of its diners die after drinking the super-caffeinated Lemonade.
~ Maggie J.