People are going to make fun of this lawsuit several reasons:
- People are going to say that it was the 19-year-old’s own choice to drink two or more 16-ounce cans of Monster every day for two years.
- They’ll say that his mother shouldn’t have let him drink that much.
- Then they’ll say that, if she was a bad enough mother to let him drink all that, then she shouldn’t be allowed to sue Monster afterwards.
- The boy died of a heart attack while having sex with his girlfriend, and people will (a) make fun of that, because, “sex!” so funny and (b) they’ll think that it was the sex that gave him the heart attack, not the Monster.
But read a little deeper into the complaint. The complaint shows pretty clearly that Monster sells a product that it knows is dangerous, and that Monster has repeatedly and intentionally failed to warn consumers about how dangerous these products actually are. Here are some interesting allegations from the original complaint (I’ve cited the paragraphs of the complaint after each):
Caffeine can be lethal to adolescents in doses of 200-400 milligrams. The safe level is under 100 mg/day. Two cans of Monster contain 320 mg of caffeine. (Par. 16).
Monster won’t label its products, or even tell anyone how much caffeine it has in it. Consumer Reports analyzed the stuff, and wrote that it had more than 270 mg in a 24-oz can. Monster dismissed this study, stating that it does not post caffeine amounts because “there is no legal or commercial business requirement to do so, and also because our products are completely safe, and the actual numbers are not meaningful to most consumers.” (Par. 17)
Monster also contains guarana and taurine. Studies have shown that the combination of these with caffeine can cause heart attacks. (Par. 18)
From 2004 to 2009, energy drink sales increased by 240%. This coincided with an increase in emergency room visits due to caffeine overdoses from 1,128 in 2005 to 13,114 in 2009. 56% of these ER visits were from people aged 12 to 25. (Par. 20)
Monster had $1.3 billion in revenue in 2001. They sell 36.8% of the energy drinks in the U.S. (Par. 21)
The health risks are well-known, yet Monster does absolutely nothing to warn anyone of them, and they heavily market their drink to teenagers and young adults. (Par. 22-23)
Not only does Monster fail to warn of well-known dangers, they intentionally withhold, suppress, and conceal from consumers information about the adverse health effects. (Par 27)
Keep in mind, these are all allegations in a complaint. The allegations have not been proven in court. However, much of this is supported by scientific studies, and the quotation from Monster concerning the Consumer Reports study is public. So there is certainly some truth to the allegations.
But my point is that this is NOT a frivolous lawsuit. This is not “litigation gone wild.” This is the exact opposite – it’s trial lawyers keeping you, and your children, safe. Honestly, I’d have preferred to see this taken care of by regulation. But the U.S. has quite poor regulation. Despite the cries of the business lobby that they are so horribly over-regulated, the U.S. is generally under-regulated compared to Europe. And so we leave the “regulation” to trial lawyers and court cases. The main problem with this approach is that there is a time delay of many years before any regulations are put in place – because they are not put forth until the lawsuits show the necessity. And trial lawyers can’t bring lawsuits until after people have been hurt, or died. And then the suit takes years to go through the courts.
In the meantime, Monster keeps bringing in over $1 billion per year. Not sure if a wrongful death lawsuit every once in a while will have much effect.