The family of an Ivy League student with a heart condition who died after drinking a caffeinated “charged lemonade” drink is suing Panera Bread.
Sarah Katz, 21, went into cardiac arrest hours after buying the drink, which contains more caffeine than cans of Red Bull and Monster Energy combined, the lawsuit says.
Her parents' attorneys say in court documents filed in Philadelphia's Court of Common Pleas that Katz had a heart condition — long QT syndrome type 1 — and was avoiding energy drinks on doctors' advice.
The lawsuit says the University of Pennsylvania junior bought the drink at a Panera Bread in Philadelphia on Sept. 10, 2022.
It was “offered side-by-side with all of Panera's non-caffeinated and/or reduced-caffeinated beverages” and advertised as a “plant-based and pure” drink that contained as much caffeine as the restaurant's dark roast coffee, according to the wrongful-death lawsuit.
But the complaint says the drink actually has 390 milligrams of caffeine, more than any dark roast coffee on the company's menu.
The lawsuit also says the drink contains guiana extract and the equivalent of nearly 30 teaspoons of sugar.
“I think everyone thinks lemonade is safe. And really, this isn't lemonade at all. It's an energy drink that tastes like lemon,” Elizabeth Crawford, a partner at the Philadelphia-based law firm Kline & Specter, told NBC News. “He should have adequate warning.”
The lawyer said the family wants to make people aware of the ingredients in the “charged lemonade.”
“That's become their most important thing, is to make the public aware of these dangers to make sure it doesn't happen to someone else,” he said.
Katz's friend and roommate told the news outlet that her friend wouldn't have bought the drink if she actually realized what was in it.
“She was very, very careful about what she had to do to keep herself safe,” Victoria Rose Conroy said. “I guarantee if Sarah knew how much caffeine this was, she would never touch it with a 10 foot pole.”
A medical examiner determined the cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia due to long QT syndrome, the report said.
The report says she had no drugs in her system and makes no mention of alcohol as a factor in her death.
The independent Panera Bread has been contacted for comment.
Katz studied international relations, health and society, and East Asian languages and cultures at Penn.
He had taught CPR in high schools and impoverished areas as a Rep Cap Ambassador for the American Heart Association.