28-year-old woman files lawsuit against Panera, claiming supercharged lemonade causes heart problems

28-year-old woman files lawsuit against Panera, claiming supercharged lemonade causes heart problems

Lauren Skerritt played soccer, surfed, and went to the gym. She competed in the Spartan Beast, an obstacle course race described by its organizers as soul-crushing. She was an athletic, healthy 27-year-old.

Then, according to the lawsuit filed this week, she drank Panera Bread lemonade.

Hours after drinking 2½ of a caffeinated lemonade drink from the bakery chain One day in April, Skerritt began experiencing heart palpitations. She went to the hospital, where she ended up in intensive care due to atrial fibrillation, her heart beating irregularly.

Skerritt now suffers from persistent heart problems that have put her on daily medications and derailed her life, she and her husband alleged in the lawsuit filed against Panera Bread in Delaware on Tuesday.

Skerritt’s case is the third case against Panera regarding its lemonade, which contains up to 390 milligrams of caffeine per 30-ounce serving. Four times the amount in a cup of coffee. These allegations raise questions about whether the drink, which Panera still sells, is safe.

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Two families claimed their loved ones died after drinking lemonade — a 46-year-old man from Florida and a 21-year-old student from Pennsylvania, both of whom had underlying conditions that made it unsafe for them to consume too much caffeine. .

Dennis Brown, a supermarket employee from Florida, had a heart attack in October while returning home from Panera, where he had been drinking three lemonades. Brown, who had a disability, abstained from drinking energy drinks because he had high blood pressure, according to the lawsuit filed by his family.

Sarah Katz, who attended the University of Pennsylvania, went into cardiac arrest after drinking lemonade in September 2022 and later died in hospital, according to the lawsuit filed by her parents. She had a manageable heart condition that led her to avoid high-caffeine drinks.

The lawsuits, all filed by Philadelphia-based Klein & Spector, allege that Panera is selling an “unreasonably dangerous” product. They argue that Panera did not adequately warn consumers about the high caffeine content of its lemonade, which comes in multiple flavors, and made the drinks readily available for refills by offering them as self-serve drinks and as part of the chain’s Unlimited Sip Club. .

The drink contains multiple sources of caffeine, including coffee and guarana extract, and a high amount of sugar. The Skerrits’ lawsuit claims the larger size contains 124 grams of sugar, more than 12 ounces of Red Bull and Monster’s 16 ounces combined.

An occupational therapist living in Rhode Island, Skerritt didn’t know she was ordering such a highly caffeinated drink when she chose lemonade. Her lawyer, Elizabeth Crawford, said she had no pre-existing health conditions.

“It clearly shows that this is a dangerous drink,” Crawford said. “A reasonable consumer, at a place like Panera Bread, with a drink like lemonade, without any underlying conditions — how could they think this product is unsafe?”

Crawford said she has spoken to additional people with similar allegations against Panera’s lemonade, and expects more lawsuits to be filed against the company.

Panera Bread did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment from The Washington Post. The company has disputed previous lawsuits. Last month, a company spokesperson said the company did not believe the Florida man’s death was caused by a Panera product.

“We hold that this lawsuit, brought by the same law firm as the previous one, is meritless. Panera is steadfastly committed to the safety of our products,” the spokesperson said in December.

The online menu now labels the beverage as containing caffeine, and if a user clicks on the drink, the description reads: “Naturally flavored, vegetarian. Contains caffeine. Use in moderation. Not recommended for children, people sensitive to caffeine, and pregnant or breastfeeding women.” .

The FDA said about 400 milligrams of caffeine per day is generally safe for healthy adults, but how sensitive people are to caffeine can vary widely. Drinking more than one charged lemon juice would put an adult above the recommended amount.

On the day she went to Panera in Greenville, Rhode Island, Skerritt, a vegetarian, saw a lemonade labeled “vegan” and chose it accordingly, according to the lawsuit. That evening, she had three heart palpitations while sitting in church.

She went to the emergency room the next day, with her heart rate in the 90s and an irregular heartbeat. A few months later, she had to be hospitalized again due to atrial fibrillation.

Since then, she has suffered recurring episodes of heart palpitations, shortness of breath, tremors, weakness, and brain fog, along with hand tremors. She is no longer able to exercise the way she used to, according to the lawsuit.

Skerrit and her husband, Christopher, are recently married. Crawford said a big part of their relationship was doing physical activities together, like the Spartan Beast race.

They also planned to start a family, but put those plans on hold because Skerritt was told she would face a high-risk pregnancy due to her heart condition.

“Their whole marriage, their plans, everything has changed because she can no longer do the types of physical activity that they used to do before,” Crawford said. “This creates a whole new normal for what they thought would be their life.”

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