Panera Bread's Charged Lemonade being blamed for second death, family files lawsuit

Fast-causal chain Panera Bread has once again found itself the target of a lawsuit based around its highly caffeinated Charged Lemonade drinks.

For the second time this year, legal action has been filed against the restaurant alleging that the lemonade drinks caused the death of a customer who consumed them. The lawsuit, filed Monday, alleged that 46-year-old Dennis Brown of Fleming Island, Florida, suffered a cardiac arrest on the way home from his local Panera, where he drank three Charged Lemonades.

According to the suit, Brown generally avoided drinking significant amounts of caffeine and did not consume energy drinks as a rule, thanks to his diagnosis of high blood pressure. Brown, who was known to frequently stop by the Panera Bread after his shifts at a supermarket, was also diagnosed with an unspecified chromosomal disorder, developmental delay, and intellectual disability, said the lawsuit.

Another death linked to Panera's Charged Lemonade

The lawsuit was filed by Philadelphia-based law firm Kline & Specter, PC, which also represents the family in the case of Sarah Katz who likewise allegedly died after consuming a Charged Lemonade drink. In it, Brown's family claims he did not know the drinks contained caffeine and had been consuming them consistently in the six days leading up to his death.

The drinks are also included in Panera's line-up of eligible items for their " Unlimited Sip Club," which Brown was a part of. It's a membership that allows patrons who pay a subscription fee to refill drinks at no cost.

In a statement to USA TODAY, Panera Bread denied any wrongdoing, saying; "Panera expresses our deep sympathy for Mr. Brown's family," but that, based on its investigation, the company believes "his unfortunate passing was not caused by one of the company's products."

"We view this lawsuit, which was filed by the same law firm as a previous claim, to be equally without merit. Panera stands firmly by the safety of our products," it continued.

Prior lawsuit filed over Panera Charged Lemonade

Family files lawsuit: Panera Bread's ‘Charged Lemonade’ being blamed for student's death

This is the second lawsuit accusing Panera of improperly labeling or informing customers of the contents of the Charged Lemonade drinks. A few months ago, the chain was hit with a similar filing after the family of Sarah Katz, a 21-year-old University of Pennsylvania student, claimed the college student's death in 2022 due to cardiac arrest was caused by the highly caffeinated drink and improper labeling.

Katz had a heart condition called long QT syndrome type 1, which caused an irregular heart rhythm, so she avoided energy drinks. According to the lawsuit, a large Charged Lemonade has 390 mg of caffeine in it, far more than what can be found in drinks like Monster or Red Bull. Instead, it was advertised as a "clean" drink with the same amount of caffeine as a dark roast coffee.

Katz drank the charged beverage "reasonably confident it was a traditional lemonade and/or electrolyte sports drink containing a reasonable amount of caffeine safe for her to drink," the lawsuit said.

Panera Bread changed the labeling on Charged Lemonade

Panera later changed labels on the product after the first suit was filed, saying in a statement to NBC News they had "enhanced our existing caffeine disclosure for these beverages" out of "an abundance of caution," adding that the company was "saddened to learn this week about the tragic passing of Sarah Katz."

The chain's website advertises the "charged sips" under a menu section with a description reading, "Naturally flavored, plant-based, and Clean with about as much caffeine as our Dark Roast coffee."

Clicking one of the three available flavors leads to a page with an image of the lemonade overlayed with a large "contains caffeine" sign at the bottom. The "about" section again says the drinks are, "Naturally flavored, plant-based, with about as much CAFFEINE as our Dark Roast Coffee."

Following this is an additional warning that reads: "Use in moderation. NOT RECOMMENDED FOR children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant or nursing women."

While ad material for the lemonades still compares the caffeine content to that of the brand's coffee, the nutrition information lists the "regular" lemonade size as having 260 milligrams of caffeine and the "large" as having 390 mg. The Katz lawsuit compared this to the listed 214 mg in the regular-sized dark roast coffee and 268mg in the large, noting the difference.

Reporting contributed by Sarah Al-Arshani, USA TODAY.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Panera's Charged Lemonade linked to man's death, lawsuit states