Monster Beverage Corporation, a leading marketer and distributor of energy drinks and one of the biggest athlete and event sponsors in action sports, is facing a lawsuit over the death of a 14-year-old girl who died of cardiac arrhythmia after drinking Monster Energy.
The wrongful death case, filed on October 17 in California Superior Court in Riverside County, Calif., is bolstered by recently released Food and Drug Administration incident reports showing that, between 2004 and June of this year, five people may have died after drinking the highly caffeinated energy drink.
While the incident reports do not directly connect those five deaths with the consumption of Monster Energy, the lawsuit does not mince words.
According to the complaint, Monster's fraud, deceit and failure to warn its consumers -- including children, teenagers, and young adults -- of the health risks associated with its product "caused Anais Fourneir to suffer the cardiac arrhythmia that ultimately lead to her death."
"Monster is saddened by the untimely passing of Anais Fournier, and its sympathies go out to her family," reads a statement released by the company. "Monster does not believe that its products are in any way responsible for the death of Ms. Fournier and intends to vigorously defend the lawsuit."
Last December, a few hours after drinking the second of two 24-ounce cans of Monster Energy within a 24-hour period, Fourneir went into cardiac arrest, according to the complaint. For six days, the Maryland teenager remained in a medically induce coma at John Hopkins Hospital before being taken off life support two days before Christmas.
According to the autopsy report, Fourneir died of "cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity complicating mitral valve regurgitation in the setting of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome."
In Fourneri, the syndrome was a preexisting heart problem, but according to the family's lawyer, Kevin Goldberg, doctors had not told her to restrict her consumption of caffeine.
The two, 24-oz. cans of Monster Energy that Fourneir drank in that 24-hour period contained a total of 480 milligrams of caffeine, equivalent to 14 12-oz. cans of Coke.
"By classifying Monster Energy as a 'dietary supplement,' -- in other words, not a 'food' -- [Monster Beverage Corporation] manufactures its Monster Energy drinks without any restrictions on caffeine content," according to the lawsuit.
"Monster Energy drinks, including their ingredients and labeling, are in full compliance with all laws and regulations in each of the more than 70 countries in which they are sold," according to the company's statement.
Fourneir's family is seeking unspecified monetary compensation for the cost of her funeral and burial, emotional and mental pain and suffering, and medical and legal expenses.
But the money's not the point, Goldberg told ESPN.com. "Anais's mother [Wendy Crossland] has never been financially motivated. Nothing will bring back her daughter. What she does want is for parents, teenagers and young adults to know the dangers of these energy drinks. The drinks and ingredients are not regulated by the FDA and Wendy wants the world to know is these drinks have risks. She wants to see warning labels and the sale banned to minors."
Monster is also facing a lawsuit filed in August by the Beastie Boys for unauthorized use of several of the band's songs, while more legal trouble surfaced on Aug. 9, as the company's U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing disclosed that an unnamed state attorney general's office was investigating the beverage company's advertising and the ingredients of its energy drinks.