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Mom Sues Monster Beverage Over Son's Death

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By Aditi Mukherji, JD on June 27, 2013 8:26 AM

Monster Beverage Co. has been sued yet again by a parent who blames Monster Energy Drinks for causing her teenage son's death.

Alex Morris, 19, of Oakland, California, died from a cardiac arrhythmia last year. His mother Paula is alleging that Alex's death was caused by Monster Energy Drinks, which he habitually drank.

The wrongful death lawsuit asserts that Alex Morris would not have died if he had not consumed two cans of Monster energy drinks every day for the three years before his death, including the day he died, reports CBS News.

What will the mom have to prove to win her lawsuit?

Proving Causation

To win a wrongful death lawsuit, Paula Morris will likely have to show that Monster drinks, and not some other condition, were the cause of her son's death.

Morris went into cardiac arrest during the early morning hours of July 1, 2012, and was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

An arrhythmia is a condition in which the heart can beat too slow or too fast. During that time, the heart may not pump enough blood to the brain and other organs, which could result in the loss of consciousness or death.

The family of Anais Fournier, a 14-year-old who similarly died of cardiac arrhythmia, also sued Monster Beverage last year after she consumed two 24-ounce cans of Monster and died.

In Fournier's case, an autopsy cited cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity as the cause of death.

A jolt of caffeine is typically what Monster Energy Drink consumers are after. In a 24-ounce can that is popular with children, the drink can contain 240 milligrams of caffeine, which is seven times the amount found in a regular soda.

The Fourniers had a tough case, however, because Anais suffered from an inherited disorder that weakened her blood vessels. Alex Morris' mother will have a stronger causation argument if her son didn't have an underlying medical condition that may have contributed to his death.

Proving Negligence

Proving causation is key to proving that Monster Beverage was negligent. The plaintiffs may also assert negligence by showing how Monster's production, marketing and/or labeling was careless and ineffective.

Monster already puts labels on its drinks that warn consumers that the drinks are not recommended for children and people who are sensitive to caffeine.

However, there is a question as to whether these warnings are enough -- especially when the company continues to heavily market its products in ways that tend to influence teenagers.

Critics say that energy drinks should bear more warning labels that detail potential health risks.

Statistics seem to support that conclusion. Emergency room visits associated with energy drinks have doubled in the past four years, according to a study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

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