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Monster Beverage contests Maryland lawsuit

Energy drink manufacturer Monster Beverage is denying allegations that its product caused the death of a 14-year-old Maryland girl, contending that medical tests have proven the drinks to be safe and cleared the company of liability. Monster argues that medical staff never tested the deceased girl's blood for caffeine toxicity, which would have been necessary to link her death to the beverages.

The lawsuit claims the girl died after she drank 48 ounces of Monster in a 24-hour period. The civil litigation contends that the teenager's heart stopped as a direct result of her consumption of the energy drink. The plaintiffs' attorney asserts that the lack of a toxicology test does not protect Monster from being found accountable for the death. He argued that warning labels on Monster's cans, which caution pregnant women and children not to consume the beverage, are "ambiguous and intentionally misleading" as the company markets toward teenagers.

Monster says that while its target demographic consists of consumers between the ages of 18 and 34, its drinks are safe for most children to drink. The Food and Drug Administration is currently investigating several reports regarding deaths claimed to be linked to the energy drink, but has failed to uncover any evidence supporting those assertions.

While a representative with Maryland's head medical examiner could not comment on the litigation or say whether technicians conducted a toxicology test on the girl's blood, her official autopsy report lists her cause of death as "cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity complicating mitral valve regurgitation in the setting of Ehler's-Danlos syndrome." However, a team of medical professionals later reviewed the girl's records and determined she died of natural causes, with no medical evidence to support the autopsy's finding that caffeine was a factor. The team said the girl suffered from an existing heart condition, which was likely the primary cause of her death.

Source: New York Times, "Energy Drink Is Defended in Death Suit," March 4, 2013

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