Monster Energy: 'No Responsibility' in Teenager's Death

Jury trial of energy-drink claims begins in Oklahoma

Published in CSP Daily News

By  Steve Holtz, Online News Director & Beverage Editor

DURANT, Okla. -- As a jury trial got under way in Oklahoma this week, Monster Beverage Corp. expressed its sympathies for a 16-year-old boy who died in 2011, allegedly after drinking a Monster Energy drink, but took zero responsibility for the death.

Angela Wheat, the mother of Jason Hamric, filed a complaint in 2013 in Oklahoma District Court against Monster Beverage Corp. and an Oklahoma corporation, Ed F. Davis Inc., for claims arising out of her son’s injuries attributed to the consumption of Monster Energy drinks. A jury trial began Monday.

The complaint alleges that Hamric, then 16 years old, “collapsed and lost consciousness,” resulting in “full cardiopulmonary arrest with no pulse or blood pressure” sometime after consuming a Monster Energy drink. The defendant, Ed F. Davis, Inc., is the distributor of the Monster Energy drink that Hamric consumed.

But in a statement made this week, Monster Beverage not only maintained the safety of its beverages, it also questioned whether Hamric had even drunk one of its beverages as claimed in testimony.

“There is no credible evidence that Jason consumed a Monster Energy drink the day of the incident,” the company stated. “The evidence in this case shows the only person that saw him with a drink that day was Bill Ledbetter, a pastor at the Fairview Baptist Church. When deposed and interviewed, Pastor Ledbetter stated that Jason was holding a 'silver can.' In 2011 when this incident occurred, Monster had no product that was even close to being described as in a silver can.”

The complaint asserts claims for strict product liability (design defect and failure to warn); negligence in the design, manufacturing and sale, and for failure to warn of possible harmful effect; violation of the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act of unfair trade practices and deceptive trade practices; negligence per se; and punitive damages. The plaintiff seeks damages “in an amount in excess of $75,000 exclusive of interest and costs,” punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.

Monster maintains it is not guilty on all charges.

“We are truly sorry about Jason’s injury, but we are confident that once all the evidence is heard, it will be shown that Monster had no responsibility in this case,” the company stated. “The sale and consumption of 12 billion Monster Energy drinks worldwide over more than 12 years has shown that our products are safe. Contrary to allegations, they are not 'highly caffeinated' and they are not marketed to children. In fact, a 16-oz. Monster Energy drink contains less than half the caffeine than a 16-oz. (Tall) cup of Starbucks brewed coffee. Monster’s labels state: 'Not recommended for children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant women or women who are nursing.' ”

The jury trial is expected to last a week.

 

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By Steve Holtz, Online News Director & Beverage Editor
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