Panera Bread's Charged Lemonade blamed for second death

The family of Florida resident David Brown filed a lawsuit on Monday saying the fast-casual chain neglected to warn vulnerable consumers about caffeine levels in the beverage.
The two lawsuits involving Panera Bread's Charged Lemonade were filed by the same law firm, the company said. |Photo: Shutterstock.

Panera Bread’s Charged Lemonade has been blamed for a second death, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in Delaware.

The family of David Brown on Monday filed a lawsuit in Delaware Superior Court seeking damages, saying the 46-year-old died of a cardiac event after consuming Panera’s Charged Lemonade at a unit in Florida.

The litigation comes weeks after another lawsuit involving a 21-year-old college student with a heart condition, who also died after consuming the beverage.

Panera Bread officials in a statement said the charges were without merit, noting that both lawsuits were filed by the same law firm.

“Panera expresses our deep sympathy for Mr. Brown’s family,” the company said through a spokesman. “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.”

Brown is described as having a chromosomal deficiency disorder, developmental delay and ADHD, as well as a mild intellectual disability and blurry vision. But “with the help of his loving life coaches and supportive family, was able to be gainfully employed and live independently,” the lawsuit said.

Brown also had high blood pressure and did not consume energy drinks, according to the claim, He was known to eat at the Panera Bread unit near his job up to three times a week. Typically he ordered water or other beverages, but he began ordering the Charged Lemonade in September, and again on five subsequent visits.

On Oct. 9, Brown bought the Charged Lemonade, and during about 90-minutes at the unit, refilled his drink two more times. While walking home, however, he suffered a cardiac event and was later pronounced dead.

The lawsuit notes that, at the time, the beverage was not advertised as an energy drink and there were no warnings to consumers about caffeine levels.

Panera’s Charged Lemonade was marketed to children and adults alike, and was displayed alongside other non-caffeinated juice beverages, the family contended in court documents.

“This marketing is especially dangerous to a vulnerable population, children and adults who would reasonably believe this product was lemonade and safe for consumption,” the lawsuit said. “Consumers are not provided a factual basis for understanding it is an energy drink containing exorbitant amounts of caffeine, caffeine sources stimulants and sugar.”

In October, another lawsuit was reportedly filed by the family of 21-year-old Sarah Katz, who died in September 2022 after consuming the drink at a unit in Philadelphia.

In recent months, Panera Bread units have enhanced disclosure about caffeine levels. When ordering online, for example, the Charged Lemonade states “contains caffeine” in a large font and recommends drinking in moderation, saying it is “not recommended for children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant or nursing women.”

Panera said its Charged Lemonade drinks contain 13 milligrams of caffeine per ounce, which is about the same as the chain's dark roast coffee.

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