Case Overview and Product Description
In December of 2011, 14 year old Anais Fournier purchased and consumed two 24 oz Monster Energy drinks within one 24 hour period. This is the equivalent of 6 servings for an adult. She went into cardiac arrest the night of December 17th and died the evening of December 18th. Her parents sue Monster for damages on the basis of Strict Liability and Negligence.
Monster is sold as dietary supplements instead of food item, so it is not as strictly regulated. It is marketed as a supplement that increases energy, promotes focus, and helps with weight loss. The drink contains an excessive amount of caffeine and other drugs that combine to increase heart ...view middle of the document...
The 48 oz of Monster did not spill in Ms. Fournier’s mouth and cause the fatal damage. She made a conscious choice to drink extremely large quantities to induce drug like effects to her own physical and mental state.
What defenses can Monster assert against the claim that its beverages are unreasonably dangerous?
Under the doctrine of Strict Liability, a product must be considered unreasonably dangerous, which means it does not meet the reasonable expectations of the ordinary consumer, in order for a plaintiff to recover damages. The plaintiff asserts that Monster drinks have an unreasonable level of caffeine. As a food item the caffeine is unreasonable; it has the same amount as multiple cups of coffee. However, Monster drinks are sold as food, but as dietary supplements. Each 24 oz can contains 240mg of caffeine, within the daily limits for the average adult. It’s intended use is for adults who need an unnatural boost for a night of parties, a night of work, or a day at the gym. For well hydrated and reasonable adults, one Monster drink is suitable for casual consumption and is not dangerous.
Monster Energy is not intended to be used by 14 year olds. According to the Investor Place article by James Brumley titled, “Monster Beverage-Linked Deaths: Tragic? Yes. Lawsuit-Worthy? No.”, teenagers are attracted to abusing anything that can alter their physical, mental, and emotional states. This is evident in high rates of alcohol use, premature sex, drug use, and thrill seeking behaviors by teenagers. Teenagers engage in these behaviors for the pleasure of living life on the edge. For this reason, teenagers cannot be considered reasonable people. Ms. Fournier, by no means the average and reasonable consumer, consciously abused the drink. Monster cannot be held accountable under Strict Liability for the abusive actions of a thrill seeking teen.
Are there any defenses based on the element of proximate cause?
Proximate Cause is an element of causation, which is necessary to prove both Negligence and Strict Liability. It defines events that are substantially related to the injury of the plaintiff. In order for there to be proximate cause, the event must be something the defendant could have reasonably foreseen. Anything that has happened in the past with substantial frequency falls in the scope of foreseeability. According to the NY Times article by Barry Meier titled, “F.D.A. Posts Injury Data for 3 Drinks,” there have been 5 fatalities involving Monster Energy as well ad thousands of ER visits. The numerous accounts of harm caused by Monster Energy were likely a result of product abuse. Due to numerous accounts of product abuse, it becomes foreseeable.