Caffeine Casualty: Alex Morris

By Monster’s standards, 19-year-old Alex Morris consumed its signature drink “responsibly.”

According to his mother, Morris drank between two and three Monster Energy drinks a day. That’s 320-480 mg of caffeine, or the equivalent of 8-12 Cokes.

Sound like a lot? Not according to Monster warning labels, which read, “CONSUME RESPONSIBLY: LIMIT 3 CANS PER DAY.” (Three 16-ounce cans contain 480 mg of caffeine.) And not according to the FDA, which, incredibly, still does not regulate caffeine content in energy drinks the way it does in sodas.

Demand FDA Regulation

The morning of July 1, 2012, Alex Morris went into cardiac arrest while with his girlfriend. Morris later died at a hospital near his hometown of Silver Spring, Maryland.

The cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia and cardiomyopathy—evoking the 2011 passing of 14-year-old Anais Fournier under eerily similar circumstances. Both victims’ families would later file wrongful death lawsuits against Monster.

Monster Denies Wrongdoing Despite Lack of Warnings

Monster Energy denied that its products had anything to do with either of these caffeine casualties, though the coroner report listed Fournier’s cause of death as “cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity.” Morris and Fournier both had heart conditions (Fournier’s was a very minor one), which Monster blamed for their deaths.

These heart conditions probably did play a role in Morris and Fournier’s deaths—but that doesn’t absolve the extreme amounts of caffeine, guarana, sugar, and other ingredients present in the Monster cans they allegedly “pounded down” in their final hours.

Hold Monster Accountable

Importantly, Monster does NOT warn against consumption by people with heart conditions (or seizure disorders, or diabetes…), despite growing evidence that energy drinks raise the risk of arrhythmia, heart failure, heart attack, stroke, and even death. (See below for the type of warning advocated by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.)

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Monster also warns children against consumption while not-so-subtly marketing to them. There is no warning for teens or adolescents even though three cans (“responsible” consumption) is at least four times as much caffeine as a developing body should receive in a day.

Indeed, many doctors say that teen caffeine intake should be much lower: 0.

Monster Settles Lawsuits, Avoiding Trial

For all its myopic bluster about there being no causal relationship between its products and the 11+ deaths to which they’ve been linked, Monster always settles its lawsuits.

Last summer, Monster settled the Morris suit, along with one filed by the wife of Shane Felts, a 42-year-old man who died in 2012 after allegedly consuming just one Monster a day for two weeks. Last fall, the company presumably settled the Fournier suit as well (it never went to trial as scheduled).

For a company that denies any wrongdoing, Monster sure pays out a lot of money to avoid proving it in court.

…But There Are More On the Way

Last month, Morgan & Morgan filed five injury lawsuits against Monster Energy, vowing more to come. (We are also investigating claims against other energy drink companies on the grounds of severe injuries, inadequate labeling, and improper testing.)

Shortly thereafter, a Washington state man named Brian Smith sued Monster after suffering a stroke he alleges was brought on by downing four 16-ounce cans of Monster in a single day: equivalent to 640 mg of caffeine, or 18 Cokes’ worth. Smith says he has suffered lasting injuries since the stroke occurred three years ago, in 2013.

His attorney, Leo Shishmanian of Phillips Law Firm, writes in court papers, “Despite the well-known health risks associated with excessive caffeine consumption, Monster Energy is heavily marketed towards children, teenagers and young adults—those individuals most susceptible to caffeine-related injury.”

For the family of Alex Morris, Shishmanian’s words ring all too true.