Attorneys for the 21-year-old University of Pennsylvania student’s family say that Panera failed to adequately warn customers that its “Charged Lemonade” contained more caffeine than a can of Red Bull and a can of Monster combined.
The family of a young Ivy League student has filed a lawsuit against Panera Bread, claiming that the restaurant’s highly-caffeinated Charged Lemonade constitutes a type of “dangerous energy drink.”
According to The Guadian, the lawsuit was filed Monday in a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
In their complaint, the family alleges that 21-year-old Sarah Katz had a heart condition called “long QT syndrome type 1.” She fastidiously avoided energy drinks at the suggestion of her doctor.
Now, the family’s attorneys say that Katz would most likely not have purchased Charged Lemonade if she had been made aware of the drink’s “stimulant content.”
Charged Lemonade, attorneys say, contains significantly more caffeine than Red Bull, Monster, and other popular energy drinks, with The Guardian noting that it appears to contain more caffeine than several cans of Red Bull combined.
After purchasing a Charged Lemonde from a Philadelphia-area Panera on September 10, 2022, Katz went into cardiac arrest, dying several hours later.
“She was very, very vigilant about what she needed to do to keep herself safe,” Katz’s friend and roommate, Victoria Rose Conry, told NBC News. “I guarantee if Sarah had known how much caffeine this was, she never would have touched it with a 10-foot pole.”
The Katz family’s complaint alleges that Charged Lemonade is “offered side-by-side with all of Panera’s non-caffeinated and/or less caffeinated drinks,” and was advertised as “plant-based and clean.”
Advertising materials appear to have suggested that its caffeine content was comparable to Panera’s dark roast coffee.
However, with 390 milligrams of caffeine, Charged Lemonade has significantly more caffeine than any size of Panera’s dark roast coffee. It also contains guarana extract, another stimulant, as well as 30 teaspoons of sugar.
“I think everyone thinks lemonade is safe. And really, this isn’t lemonade at all. It’s an energy drink that has lemon flavor,” said Elizabeth Crawford, a partner at the Kline & Specter, P.C., law firm. “It should have a warning.”
The lawsuit suggests that Charged Lemonade is “defective in design because it is a dangerous energy drink.”
“These unregulated beverages include no warning of any potentially dangerous effects, even the life-threatening effects on blood pressure, heart rate, and/or brain function,” the lawsuit claims, with attorneys noting that Charged Lemonade is, in fact, described as “the ultimate energy drink” on Panera’s website.
This description, though, does not appear to have been placed or otherwise publicized in brick-and-mortar stores.
“If you’re going to market it that way and know it’s [an] energy drink, how can you not market it that way in the actual store?” Crawford asked. “The reasonable consumer is not going to go onto the website and compare it to see whether or not there’s any additional information.”