The parents of a 21-year-old Ivy League student, Sarah Katz, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the popular restaurant chain, Panera Bread, alleging that their daughter passed away after consuming Panera’s “Charged Lemonade,” a beverage they claim to be a “dangerous energy drink.” The lawsuit, submitted in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, asserts that Panera was aware of the potential risks associated with their highly-caffeinated lemonade.
Sarah Katz had been diagnosed with Long QT Type 1 Syndrome, a heart condition, at the tender age of 5. She diligently followed her medical advice, which included abstaining from energy drinks and high-caffeine beverages. However, on September 10, 2022, tragedy struck when she suffered cardiac arrest shortly after consuming a Charged Lemonade at a Panera location in Philadelphia while with her friends. Despite immediate medical attention, she experienced a second cardiac arrest at the hospital and was ultimately pronounced dead.
The legal complaint argues that Katz, like any other customer, believed that the Charged Lemonade was a conventional lemonade or an electrolyte sports drink with a safe amount of caffeine. Panera, in response, expressed their condolences and commitment to investigating the matter thoroughly.
Panera’s Charged Lemonades, available in flavors like Fuji Apple Cranberry, Strawberry Lemon Mint, and Mango Citrus, contain a significant caffeine content, with 260mg in a 20 fl. oz. serving and 390mg in the larger 30 fl. oz. size. The caffeine is sourced from caffeine, green coffee extract, and guarana extract. Panera’s website touts these drinks as “the ultimate energy drink,” emphasizing their clean caffeine sources.
The lawsuit included an image depicting Charged Lemonades displayed alongside other self-serve drinks, rather than being marketed as traditional “energy drinks.” However, it pointed out that the caffeine levels in these lemonades exceed the combined caffeine content of a 12 oz. can of Red Bull and a 16 oz. can of Monster Energy Drink, a detail of potential concern to individuals with heart conditions like Long QT Syndrome.
Long QT Syndrome, as described by the American Heart Association, is a disorder of the heart’s electrical system, which can cause abnormal heart rhythms, particularly under stress or exercise. Katz, a student with a remarkable academic record, was studying international relations and health and societies, with a minor in East Asian languages and civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania. She was passionate about sharing her skills and knowledge, having worked as a research assistant at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and as a Red Cap Ambassador with the American Heart Association, teaching CPR in high schools and underserved communities.
The lawsuit seeks justice for Katz’s family, including claims for compensatory damages, punitive damages, interest, costs of the suit, and any other relief the court deems appropriate.