Lawsuit Filed Against Panera Over 'Charged Lemonade' Energy Drink Following Tragic College Student Fatality
The parents of an Ivy League student who passed away from a cardiac ailment after she is said to have consumed a "Charged Lemonade" from Panera Bread are suing the fast-casual eatery chain for selling the "unreasonably dangerous" energy drink. The complaint claims that Panera Bread does not go far enough in alerting customers to the drink's high caffeine content. It was filed on Monday morning in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and was first made available to NBC. At 390 mg, a big cup of Charged Lemonade contains more caffeine than a combined can of Red Bull (77.4 mg) and Monster Energy (86.4 mg). When Sarah Katz, 21, passed away on September 10, 2022, she was a junior at the University of Pennsylvania. The Mayo Clinic reports that an autopsy revealed that the cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia brought on by long QT syndrome, a chronic heart ailment that can result in rapid, irregular heartbeats. Katz had the ailment since she was five years old, and the lawsuit claims that she followed her doctor's advice and never drank energy drinks. The lawsuit claims that Katz purchased and consumed Panera's Charged Lemonade just prior to her passing. Later on in the day, she suffered a heart arrest while dining with friends. She was sent to Pennsylvania Presbyterian Hospital and later died after suffering another cardiac attack. Panera Bread released a statement in response to the lawsuit, saying, "We were very saddened to learn this morning about the tragic passing of Sarah Katz, and our hearts go out to her family." At Panera, we firmly think that the ingredients we use should be transparent. We'll get right to it and look at this matter thoroughly. Katz's parents think that the Charged Lemonade she drank was the cause of her passing. "Reasonably confident it was a traditional lemonade and/or electrolyte sports drink containing a reasonable amount of caffeine safe for her to drink," is how they claim their daughter purchased the beverage. The beverage is marketed on Panera's website as being "naturally flavorful and plant-based," with "about as much caffeine as our Dark Roast coffee." Though a 20-ounce light roast coffee from Panera contains roughly 384 mg of caffeine, the large Charged Lemonade contains 390 mg. In contrast, the 20-ounce dark roast coffee from Panera only contains about 268 mg of caffeine. As of this writing, Panera had not responded to the case in the public eye. Victoria Rose Conroy, Katz's roommate and close friend, stated that the 21-year-old was extremely cautious when managing her cardiac issue. Conroy described her as "very, very vigilant about what she needed to do to keep herself safe." "I promise Sarah wouldn't have touched it with a 10-foot pole if she had known how much caffeine this was."
"Everyone seems to believe that lemonade is safe," It's not even close to being lemonade, frankly. Elizabeth Crawford, a Philadelphia-based attorney representing the complaint, told the site that the beverage is an energy drink with a lemon flavor. "A sufficient warning ought to be provided." According to the lawsuit, Panera offers the Charged Lemonade "side-by-side with all of its non-caffeinated and/or less caffeinated drinks." Furthermore, the chain does not indicate what size of coffee it is comparable to, making the comparison to Panera's Dark Roast coffee ambiguous and "unhelpful." Additionally, because the beverage is made "in-house," the amount of caffeine "is not controlled and, in turn, has an innate and dangerous potential to vary." Crawford told CNN that the lawsuit seeks to have a warning label added to the drink or to have it "taken off the shelf." "It is not marketed as an energy drink; it is a deadly beverage. "We wish to ensure that this does not occur to another individual," she uttered. Katz is described as a dedicated and kind individual active in community health in a memorial post published by the Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndromes (SADS) Foundation. The charity states, "Since she was a young child, she was involved in CPR and AED awareness advocacy – and always wanted to help others learn how to save a life." As an American Heart Association Red Cap ambassador, Katz instructed high school students in CPR in underprivileged neighborhoods. She assisted in introducing a bill to Pennsylvania state legislators urging that all of the state's schools be designated as heart-safe locations while working as a research assistant at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The SADS Foundation states, "Sarah is deeply missed by her friends, parents, and community – who believe her message of CPR and AED awareness is more important than ever."