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Panera Bread Charged Lemonade Lawsuits: Sip through the Facts

by | Feb 13, 2024 | Product liability, Personal Injury

Fond of sipping charged lemonades? Beware! Not every lemonade is safe for you. Even a sip of simple lemonade can rewrite your destiny. This cautionary note isn’t just about choosing the right summer refreshment; it’s the crux of a legal battle that has shaken the consumers and lawyers alike- the Panera Bread Charged Lemonade Lawsuits.

This isn’t just a story about an innocuous beverage; it’s a complex brew of health risks and legal ramifications. Let’s take the first sip and unravel the complex narrative behind these headline-grabbing Panera Bread lawsuits in this article.

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Panera Bread Controversy

Panera Bread filled the headlines in September 2022, as 21-year-old Pennsylvania student, Sarah Katz collapsed hours after having her Charged Lemonade at one of the Panera Bread outlet. Within a year, it faced two more Panera Bread lawsuits on its highly caffeinated Charged Lemonade drink. Among these three cases, two lost their lives and one is struggling with heart-related side effects.

Panera Bread is a part of Panera Brands, which operates as one of the largest fast casual restaurant platforms in the U.S. This platform includes not only Panera Bread but also Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros. Bagels. Panera Brands is owned by JAB Holding Company, a private firm with a diverse portfolio of consumer-focused brands.

Launched in April 2022, Panera’s Charged Lemonades very soon started facing criticism for its high caffeinated-lemonades. Panera Charged sips came in various flavors like strawberry lemon mint, blood orange and mango yuzu citrus.

Charged Lemonades were included in the Panera’s Unlimited Sip Club, a subscription, which allowed the customers to have special discounts, free deliveries and endless refills. This, actually, led to the death of Sara and Brown as they refilled their drink with their Unlimited Sip Club membership more than once.

Panera failed to give enough warning until October 2023 when Sara’s parents filed the first lawsuit against the Charged Lemonades. The warning sign added in October 2023 read,

“Contains CAFFEINE – Consume in Moderation. NOT RECOMMENDED FOR children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant or nursing women.”

Panera said in a statement to the NBC News that they “had enhanced our existing caffeine disclosure for these beverages” out of “an abundance of caution.”

However, they haven’t yet removed the Charged Lemonades from their menu until January 2024. They have just removed it from the “self-serve fountains” in January 2024 and the customers have to rely on an employee for the refill.

The sign read,

“Looking for Charged Sips? You can pick up your order on the Rapid Pick-Up shelf or at the pick-up counter. Ask an associate if you need help locating your drink!”

panera-bread-warning

Is Panera’s Lemonade Dangerous?

Panera’s Charged Lemonades contained caffeine, green coffee extract, guarana extract, yerba mate concentrate, taurine, and/or L-carnitine (stimulants). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these ingredients are dangerous to health.

• A beverage that typically contains large amounts of caffeine, added sugars, other additives, and legal stimulants such as guarana, taurine, and L-carnitine. These legal stimulants can increase alertness, attention, energy, as well as increase blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing.1-4
• These drinks are often used by students to provide an extra boost in energy. However, the stimulants in these drinks can have a harmful effect on the nervous system.5

CDC reports that in 2011 around 1500 adolescents visited the ER for energy drink related events. The energy drinks could cause, dehydration, irregular heartbeats and heart failure, anxiety and insomnia.

Let’s see the Lemonade lawsuits filed against Panera in detail.

Panera Bread Charged Lemonade Lawsuits- an Analysis

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Sarah Katz

On October 23, 2023, Jill and Michael Katz filed a wrongful death lawsuit in the court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County on behalf of their daughter Sara Katz. That was the first lawsuit against the Charged Lemonade of Panera Bread.

Living with a heart condition known as QT syndrome type 1 since age five, Sara should not consume energy drinks, says her Panera Bread wrongful death lawsuit.

Believing that it’s just an ordinary drink with electrolytes, she consumed the lemonade, which she purchased with her Panera Sip Club membership. She was unaware of the presence of high caffeine in it.

She used to take Gatorade beverages with electrolytes being advertised as “Charged.” Thinking the “Charged” in Panera drinks as “a traditional lemonade and/or electrolyte sports drink containing a reasonable amount of caffeine safe for her to drink,” she took it on September 10, 2022.

Soon after the intake of the beverage, she had a cardiac arrest and was transported to the hospital. She had another episode of cardiac arrest there and succumbed to death.

According to the court document, “The caffeine content of the Panera Charged Lemonade ranges from 260 milligrams in 20 fluid ounces (regular size) to 390 milligrams in 30 fluid ounces (large size, Sip Club size).” It was equivalent to the combined caffeine levels of 12-oz Red Bull (114 milligrams) and Monster energy drink (60 milligrams) cans. It also had 82 to 124 grams of sugar, which is higher than the other energy drinks.

As per the Food and Drug Administration, a healthy adult can safely take around 400 mg of caffeine per day. At Panera, people can fill as many cups of lemonades as they want, with their Panera Sip Club membership. When their single large cup itself contains 390 mg of caffeine, each additional cup is dangerous even to a healthy human. It can cause elevated the heart beat rates and be highly dangerous to people with heart issues like Sara.

However, Panera claims that their lemonades are ‘Plant-based and Clean with as much caffeine as our Dark Roast Coffee.” Moreover, the Charged Lemonade is prepared by the employees, which means that “its caffeine content is not controlled and, in turn, has an innate and dangerous potential to vary,” says the Panera Lemonade lawsuit.

This Panera Bread Lemonade lawsuit alleged that the defendants knew or should have known that their product had defects and could harm children, pregnant women and people with heart issues.

The FDA informed that they would initiate investigation on the incident. An FDA spokesperson told the NBC News that “The FDA is saddened to hear of the passing of a consumer and as always, takes seriously reports of illnesses or injury from regulated products. At this point, we are gathering information about this event.”

Dennis Brown

Dennis Brown was a Florida resident with a type of chromosomal disorder, delayed development and mild intellectual disability, who worked and lived independently. Due to his high blood pressure levels, he avoided energy drinks. He used to have lemonades at Panera.

On October 9, 2023, he had three Charged Lemonades after his work. On his way home, he encountered a severe cardiac arrest and died on the sidewalk. He was also an Unlimited Sip Club member.

On December 4, 2023, Brown’s family filed lawsuit against Panera Bread in Delaware Superior Court. It alleged that the Charged Lemonades caused his death. The company had never advertised anywhere that their Charged Lemonade was an “energy drink,” and the printed words suggested that “Sip, ENJOY, Repeat. Unlimited Sip Club,” reads the lawsuit.

It also purported that, “the Charged Lemonade is an unregulated beverage which includes no warning of any risks of ingesting these concentrated amounts of caffeine in connection with the stimulants and sugar.”

As per the NBC News report, Panera expressed their sympathy on the death of Brown and stated that, “based on our investigation we believe his unfortunate passing was not caused by one of the company’s products… 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.”

Lauren Skerritt

On April 8, 2023 Lauren Skerritt, an occupational therapist, drank two-and-a-half Charged Lemonade servings at Rhode Island Panera Bread. Very soon, she experienced heart palpitations and dizziness. As her symptoms did not subside, she visited the ER the following day. She got treatment for atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat, which can be potential enough to cause blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other complications pertinent to heart.

Skerritt filed a Panera Bread Charged Lemonade lawsuit on January 13, 2024 in Delaware. Her lawsuit alleges that the Panera Bread Charged sips led her to sustain permanent heart problems. This 28 year old woman had been an athlete with active life and no pre-existing heart conditions.

She is under treatment to manage her recurrent rapid heartbeat, breathing issues, brain fogs, weakness, body shivering and tremor in her left hand. It also impacted her work life, exercise, and social life, and hindered her decision to begin a family with her spouse.

NBC News quotes her husband Christopher Skerritt’s words, “she will have a high-risk pregnancy and may have complications during the pregnancy.”

Panera Charged Lemonade Lawsuits- January 2024 Update

As per Bloomberglaw, the U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Savage in Philadelphia rejected Panera’s motion to dismiss the Sara’s Panera Bread Charged Lemonade lawsuit on the grounds that there was no casual connection between the Charged Lemonade and her death.

Panera is not new to lawsuits. Recently, Panera came to a settlement agreement in a Panera Bread class action lawsuit alleging that it mislead consumers on the fees and prices related to online deliveries booked on the company’s website or their app. People who placed an order via the website or app between October 1, 2020, and August 31, 2021, will be able to get the recompense through this Panera lawsuit settlement. Eligible claims should be filed by June 10, 2024 to ensure getting Panera class action lawsuit settlement amounts.

In another class action lawsuit filed on March 29, 2019 against Panera’s false marketing certain breads and bagels as “100% clean,” while in reality they contained harmful presence of glyphosate. The plaintiff Brianna Tabler’s Panera class action lawsuit alleged that the defendant advertised in all possible means directly or via the website the 100% clean claim. In a defendant’s motion to dismiss the claim, the lawsuit was dismissed by Judge Lucy H. Koh on June 30, 2020 with leave for the plaintiff to amend the claim.

Basic Allegations in Lemonade Lawsuits

Panera Bread Charged Lemonade lawsuits are filed primarily on the grounds of wrongful death, product liability and misrepresentation. Each case has its specific nuances, but they all revolve around the central issue of Panera Bread allegedly failing to adequately inform consumers about the high caffeine content in their Charged Lemonade. Let’s break down the grounds and prospects of each claim:

The Katz family’s lawsuit is based on the argument that Panera Bread was negligent in failing to warn consumers about the high caffeine content of the Charged Lemonade, which was particularly dangerous for individuals like Sara Katz with a pre-existing heart condition. This Panera Bread lemonade lawsuit might hinge on demonstrating that Panera Bread had a duty to warn consumers about the potential risks associated with the high caffeine content, especially for vulnerable individuals.

The plaintiffs would need to prove causation — that the Charged Lemonade directly led to Sara Katz’s death.

Dennis Brown’s Panera lawsuit claims that Panera Bread misrepresented the nature of the Charged Lemonade, leading Brown to consume it without knowing the risks, given his health condition.

Success in this Panera Bread drink lawsuit would likely depend on proving that Panera Bread failed to provide adequate warnings about the caffeine content and that this failure was a direct cause of Brown’s death.

The case may also focus on whether Panera Bread had a responsibility to make the caffeine content and associated risks clear to all consumers, including those with health issues like Brown.

Skerritt’s lawsuit alleges that the consumption of Charged Lemonade caused her to develop long-term heart problems, indicating negligence on the part of Panera Bread in failing to warn about the risks of high caffeine consumption.

This case might revolve around proving that the Charged Lemonade directly resulted in her heart condition. The lawsuit would need to establish a clear link between the product and the alleged health consequences and that Panera Bread had a duty to inform consumers about such potential risks.

In brief,

In each case, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiffs to establish that Panera Bread’s product directly caused the harm they suffered.

These Panera Bread lawsuits will likely require substantial scientific evidence to demonstrate the health effects of caffeine, especially in the context of the specific conditions each plaintiff had.

The outcomes may also depend on existing legal precedents and the specifics of food labeling and product liability laws.

Are you affected by the Charged Lemonades of Panera Bread?  Contact an avid attorney to know if you are eligible to pursue a Panera Bread Charged Lemonade lawsuits.

Medical records can come in handy in establishing any personal injury claim and so the affected individuals can fight for justice with the solid evidence hidden in their medical records. LezDo TechMed can diligently sift through the medical records to bring out the strengths and weaknesses of these claims. Reach out to get the benefit of expert medical record reviews.

As for the ongoing Panera Bread Charged Lemonade caffeine lawsuits, the instance where the judge denied the dismissal motion of Panera Bread tells us that the judicial system has taken the issue seriously and the cases will be investigated soon.

To wrap up, these energy drink lawsuits serve as a reminder that sometimes, the smallest products can raise the biggest questions. They challenge us to think critically about what we consume and how it’s presented to us. In the end, this case isn’t just about a drink; it’s about how the law responds to evolving challenges in consumer protection and corporate responsibility.

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