In a tragic turn of events, Panera Bread is grappling with a 2nd wrongful death lawsuit as a grieving family points to the popular caffeinated “charged lemonade” as the cause of a 46-year-old man’s untimely demise. Dennis Brown, a Florida resident, passed away in October after reportedly consuming three servings of the beverage, setting the stage for legal scrutiny and renewed concerns over the drink’s safety.
The wrongful-death lawsuit, filed on Monday in Superior Court in Delaware by Brown’s family, alleges that Panera was aware or should have known about the potential risks associated with the charged lemonade, particularly for vulnerable populations such as children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and individuals sensitive to caffeine. The lawsuit claims that Brown suffered a “cardiac event” while walking home from a Panera Bread in Fleming Island, Florida, on October 9.
The charged lemonade, a seemingly harmless beverage, has become the epicenter of legal controversy. With more caffeine in its large size than a 12-ounce Red Bull and a 16-ounce Monster Energy drink combined, the drink has raised concerns about its potential health impacts. Panera’s first wrongful death lawsuit, filed in October, involved a 21-year-old woman who died after consuming the charged lemonade.
In response to the mounting legal challenges, Panera claimed to have “enhanced our existing caffeine disclosure” both online and in restaurants. However, the lawsuit in Delaware sheds light on the tragic circumstances surrounding Dennis Brown’s death. The court documents reveal that Brown had ordered Panera’s charged lemonade at least seven times over two weeks in September and October, believing it to be safe as it was not marketed as an energy drink.
Brown’s medical conditions, including high blood pressure, developmental delay, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and a chromosomal disorder causing a mild intellectual disability and blurry vision, were also disclosed in the lawsuit. Despite these conditions, the family asserts that Brown trusted the product, unaware of its potential dangers.
Panera responded to the lawsuit with a statement expressing sympathy for the family while vigorously defending the safety of its products. The company insisted that their investigation led them to believe Brown’s passing was not caused by the charged lemonade and characterized the lawsuit as “equally without merit.” Notably, the same law firm filed the current and the previous claims against Panera.
The charged lemonade’s unexpected caffeine content gained widespread attention after a TikTok video in December 2022 highlighted its shockingly high levels. The beverage contains 260 milligrams of caffeine in a regular size and a staggering 390 milligrams in a large size, according to Panera’s website. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises that most “healthy adults” can safely consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, emphasizing the importance of individual tolerance levels and health conditions.
The lawsuit says Panera’s marketing of the Charged Lemonade is risky. They make it look like a regular juice that everyone, including kids, can enjoy. The argument is that people, especially those who might be more vulnerable, would naturally think it’s safe to drink. Another twist is that the drink is mixed up differently at each store, so there’s no strict control over how much caffeine ends up in it. It’s like a caffeine lottery, which adds another layer of risk.
As Panera Bread faces the second wave of legal challenges, the charged lemonade controversy serves as a stark reminder of the complexities surrounding the marketing and consumption of caffeinated beverages, urging both consumers and businesses to reevaluate their approach to product transparency and safety.