Like a lot of 14-year-olds, Anais Fournier of Hagerstown, Maryland enjoyed reading vampire novels, watching chick flicks, and hanging out at the mall. She had a boyfriend, a twin brother, a little sister. She was an honor student and an organ donor.
Tragically, like a staggering 30-50% of her peers, Anais also enjoyed energy drinks. The night before she went into cardiac arrest, Anais downed a 24-ounce Monster Energy drink at the mall with friends. The next afternoon, she had another. Three hours later, relaxing at home, her heart buckled under 14 Cokes’ worth of caffeine. Doctors induced a coma to prevent brain swelling, but Anais Fournier died six days later, just before Christmas in 2011. The official cause of death was “cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity.”
Anais’s mother, Wendy Crossland, told reporters that she had forbidden her daughter from consuming energy drinks “because I know they are bad for you.” Although Anais had a heart condition called mitral valve prolapse, it is a common one that affects 1 in 20 Americans, and her doctor did not consider her at risk. The National Institute of Health states, “Much of the time, MVP doesn’t cause any problems.”
Monster disagreed, telling NBC News, “We vehemently deny that drinking two cans of Monster Energy by itself can cause a death from caffeine toxicity.” The company also trotted out the industry’s stock Starbucks comparison, noting that some of the pervasive chain’s Ventis contain even more caffeine than a Monster tallboy.
The critical difference, of course, is that Starbucks doesn’t target kids. By their own admission, most energy drink companies market their products to children as as young as 12 (sixth graders). According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, for marketing purposes these companies define “minors” as those under the age of 12. An internal Monster document from 2009 lists the company’s target audience as those born as late as 2000—i.e., nine-year-olds. Consider, too, the “Monster Army,” a program for 13-to-21-year-old athletes who receive sponsorship deals in exchange for representing the Monster brand. Who would idolize these fledgling stars but other teens and tweens?
In 2010, children saw more television ads for 5-hour Energy than for any beverage but Capri Sun. The following year, a whopping 35% of eighth graders reported consuming energy drinks. As a result, the number of emergency room visits by 12-to-17-year-olds ballooned from 1,145 in 2007 to 1,499 in 2011. Some of these children—including Anais Fournier—died from caffeine poisoning.
Shortly after her death, Anais’s family filed a wrongful death suit against Monster for its failure to warn consumers about the potential hazards in its drinks. In 2013, the family of 19-year-old Alex Morris—an otherwise healthy teen who also suffered cardiac arrest and died after regularly consuming Monster—filed a similar suit.
In April 2015, Monster reached confidential (and likely sizable) settlements with the Morrises and with the wife of Shane Felts, a 42-year-old Kansas City man who died in 2014 after drinking a can of Monster a day for just two weeks. The wrongful death suit filed on behalf of Anais Fournier was scheduled to go to trial in August 2015, but there has been no word on its outcome, so this suit too has presumably ended in settlement.
Earlier this year, Maryland attorney Kevin I. Goldberg—who represented Anais’s family and other Monster victims, and who campaigned to restrict the sale of energy drinks to minors in Maryland—joined forces with Morgan & Morgan in our fight against Big Energy. We are investigating claims for more than 100 people who have suffered significant injuries after consuming energy drinks. Morgan & Morgan has already filed five suits against Monster, and more are on the way.
To prevent tragedies like Anais Fournier’s, we also launched a White House petition calling for more regulation of the way energy drink companies market and sell to minors. This petition could save lives, and pleads, “Mr. President, for our children’s sake, please take action.”