BROOKLYN, N.Y.Red Bull must defend itself against an $85 million lawsuit that claims its popular energy drink killed a 33-year-old man two years ago.
The lawsuit was filed Monday against Red Bull North America, Inc. in Kings County Supreme Court on behalf of New Yorker Cory Terry.
On Nov. 8, 2011, before and while playing basketball, Terry drank Red Bull; he fell into cardiac arrest and was later pronounced dead at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center in Brooklyn, according to the lawsuit.
"Had Defendant properly disclosed and warned of the significant risk of suffering adverse cardiac episodes, including cardiac arrhythmias, due to the consumption of Red Bull, a product containing exorbitant levels of caffeine, taurine, and other harmful chemicals," Terry would have neither purchased nor consumed the energy drinks, claims the lawsuit, which was filed by New York attorney Ilya Novofastovsky.
As Terry's grandmother and administrator of his estate, Patricia Ann Terry filed the complaint.
In an interview with the New York Daily News, she said her grandsonwho was a father to a 13-year-old boyregularly drank Red Bull.
I know he was healthy and I couldnt find no other reason for why he died," she told the paper.
The lawsuit contends Red Bull is able to market a product that contains no restrictions on caffeine by classifying its energy drink as a dietary supplement.
Red Bull declined to comment on the lawsuit. However, a spokesman noted the company's energy drink "is available in more than 165 countries because health authorities across the world have concluded that Red Bull Energy Drink is safe to consume."
"An 8.4 fl oz can of Red Bull Energy Drink contains 80mg of caffeine, about the equivalent amount of caffeine as a cup of home-brewed coffee," the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
Reports submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) potentially link Red Bull to 21 adverse events from the years Jan. 1, 2004 through Oct. 23, 2012. The reports received by FDA's Center for Food Safety Adverse Event Reporting System cite such symptoms as anxiety, blindness, chest pain, fatigue and vomiting. None of the 21 reports list death as the "outcome", although a few cite "life-threatening".
FDA has emphasized such reports do not reflect its conclusion that the products caused the medical problems.
The New York lawsuit cites a number of deaths around the world implicating Red Bull, including fatalities in Canada, England, Ireland and Sweden. In 2000, a student at Limerick University died during a basketball game after drinking Red Bull, and a Dublin jury questioned Red Bull's role in his death, according to Terry's complaint.
The lawsuit is seeking $50 million in punitive damages plus another $35 million for damages based on the seven causes of action ranging from wrongful death to strict liability/design defect.
FDA confirmed last year it was investigating the safety of energy drinks following reports linking the products to deaths and other adverse events.
Red Bull is not the only energy-drink company defending itself against a wrongful death suit. Monster Beverage Corp. has been blamed for at least two deaths in complaints that have been filed in California. Monster has maintained it is unaware of evidence linking its products to the fatalities.