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Panera Faces Multiple Lawsuits After Another Person Died In Connection to the Charged Lemonade

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Dennis Brown waving to a customer
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In October 2023, Dennis Brown passed away after drinking three of Panera’s charged lemonades. It set the internet buzzing about a “lemonade that kills.”

His family has also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the corporation. Brown is the second person to die from drinking charged lemonade, and this is also the second lawsuit. The first was a 21-year-old woman named Sarah Katz, who passed away in September 2022. 

What is Charged Lemonade?

Charged lemonade became public in April 2022. Early ads by Panera painted the beverage as “a force of nature” that contains “a boost of plant-based caffeine from guarana and green coffee extract.”

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Panera's chargedlemonades
Source: Pinterest

The drink is available in 4 flavors: Fuji Apple Cranberry, Blood Orange, Strawberry Lemon Mint, and Mango Yuzu Citrus. It contains 260mg of caffeine in a 20-ounce serving and 390mg in a 30-ounce serving, which is a lot of caffeine. 

How Much Caffeine Charged Lemonade Contains

If this lemonade is powerful enough to quieten young women permanently, what is its caffeine content like?

Panera's charged lemonade
Source: Pinterest

Panera’s 20-ounce light roast coffee contains 384 mg of caffeine, meaning it will give you a considerably greater jolt than a 20-ounce serving of charged lemonade. Compare that with Starbucks’ 20-ounce light roast, which gives 475 mg of caffeine, and the caffeine content does not seem so bad. 

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Is Charged Lemonade Really Dangerous?

Based on its caffeine content alone, people have questioned whether this lemonade pick-me-up really deserves the label “lemonade that kills.”

Source: Pinterest

It is a little strange that there is much clout over a beverage that does not actually contain that much caffeine compared to Starbucks. However, consumers have said that a major problem is that lemonade is available for free refills at the soda fountain.

Arguments Made in the Lawsuits Panera Now Faces.

The law firm representing both Dennis Brown and Sarah Katz’s families is Kline & Specter. The lawyers claim that the 30-ounce charged lemonade contains more caffeine than any dark roast coffee Panera sells, as well as almost 30 teaspoons of sugar.

Panera's lemonades
Source: Pinterest

Because of this, the lawyers think the lemonade is a defective product that shouldn’t be sold to the public. They also say that Panera was negligent and reckless in their advertising by downplaying the caffeine content.

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A final point they made is that most consumers don’t think of lemonade as caffeinated. As such, Panera should’ve provided extremely blatant cautionary language in-store, online, and in advertisements.

The Story of Sarah Katz:

Sarah Katz was a student at the University of Pennsylvania whose impact was constant in the school’s community. She was also a research assistant at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Her life was cut short on September 10, 2022, when she died of cardiac arrest.

A burial ceremony
Source: Pinterest

Katz had enrolled in Panera’s “Unlimited Sip Club,” which allows members unlimited drinks, at the beginning of that September. On the day of her demise, she had consumed a 30-ounce charged lemonade. Hours later, she went into cardiac arrest and passed away.

Sarah Katz Had a Preexisting Condition

Sarah Katz was suffering from a condition known as “Long QT type 1 syndrome,” which causes issues in the heart’s electrical activity. Stress, certain types of exercise, and stimulants can cause arrhythmias in people who have this syndrome.

Panera Beverages
Source: Pinterest

Katz vigorously avoided caffeine and other activities and chemicals that might trigger an arrhythmia. However, she apparently drank the charged lemonade, not realizing that it was a caffeinated beverage. The autopsy attributed the cause of death to her condition.

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What Happened to Dennis Brown?

Dennis Brown worked at a supermarket and would frequent Panera Bread after finishing his shifts. On October 9, 2023, Brown died of cardiac arrest.

Panera Beverages
Source: Pinterest

Brown went about his business as usual, enjoying one of his favorite Panera meals after finishing up a shift at the supermarket. On the day he died, he had taken three charged lemonades. He had a heart attack hours later.

Dennis Brown Had a Preexisting Condition

Though he had an intellectual disability and a developmental delay, Dennis Brown was capable of living independently. He also had high blood pressure, but it was a condition he paid attention to, and it made him avoid caffeine.

Checking high blood pressure of a patient
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Brown also consumed the charged lemonades without realizing that they were highly caffeinated beverages. Brown suffered a cardiac arrest on his way home and was found responsive on the sidewalk. The autopsy attributed the cause of death to hypertensive disease. 

What Panera Says About the Deaths 

Panera sympathizes with both the Katz and Brown families. However, they do not believe that they are at all at fault.

Source: Pinterest

The company has concluded that “based on our investigation, they believe [Brown’s] unfortunate passing was not caused by one of the company’s products.”

How Will the Lawsuits Go?

It’s difficult to predict. The law firm representing the families believes that both Katz and Brown died because they drank charged lemonade. However, both individuals had medical conditions that made them very different from average consumers.

Panera Lemonade
Source: Pinterest

They’ll need to prove this and also prove that Panera should not have sold the beverages without blatant warning labels. 

The Future of Charged Lemonade

What does all this mean for Panera’s highly caffeinated lemonade? At this time, some things seem clear. Panera will keep selling the lemonade, as the company does not believe the product poses any real threat to consumers.

Warning label
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However, they have taken additional steps to ensure that patrons are highly aware of the nature of the beverages by adding bold labels stating that charged lemonade “Contains Caffeine.” 

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The New Labels 

The drinks will now have a “use in moderation” label and offer a warning that “children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant or nursing women” should likely not indulge. 

Panera Charged Lemonades
Source: Pinterest

The same warnings have also been included on the Panera website and app. If the current lawsuits (or potential future lawsuits) do not hold up in court, this will most likely be the extent of the company’s amendments to the Energy Lemonades.

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