A well-known food chain has been served with a wrongful death lawsuit by a university student’s family.
The parents of 21-year-old Sarah Katz are pursuing legal action against Panera Bread. They allege that their daughter died from cardiac arrest on September 10, 2022, because she consumed the company’s “Charged Lemonade.” They are seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
“We want to make sure that the drink includes a warning or is taken off the shelf,” the Katzes’ lawyer, Elizabeth Crawford, told CNN. “It’s a dangerous energy drink, and it’s not advertised that way. We want to make sure this does not happen to someone else.”
Sarah, who was originally from New Jersey, was studying international relations with a focus on health and East Asian languages at the University of Pennsylvania.
The lawsuit filed on October 23 in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas claimed Sarah drank a Charged Lemonade before her death. It stated that Sarah was “reasonably confident it was a traditional lemonade and/or electrolyte sports drink containing a reasonable amount of caffeine safe for her to drink,” according to Fox 4 KDFW.
Panera’s Charged Lemonade comes in mango, cranberry, or strawberry mint flavors. It is said to contain as much caffeine as the chain’s dark roast coffee, according to its website.
Sarah had ordered a large 30-ounce cup, which contained 390 mg of caffeine, over three times the amount of a 12-ounce Red Bull. She had the ability to get free refills, so it is unclear how much she actually drank on the day of her death.
The powerful energy boost provided by this highly caffeinated beverage has been noticed by other customers, as posts on social media indicate.
One TikToker commented in a video post that she felt like the Hulk after drinking a few Charged Lemonades, joking that the beverage would be the death of her.
At the age of 5, Sarah was diagnosed with a heart disease called Long QT Type 1 Syndrome. She managed the condition with daily medication and was advised to avoid drinks with high levels of caffeine.
After visiting Panera, Sarah went to a restaurant with friends, where she went into cardiac arrest. She had a second cardiac episode later at the hospital, where she died.
In response to the lawsuit alleging that Panera has been misleading customers by not clearly advertising Charged Lemonade as an energy drink, the company issued a statement.
“We were very saddened to learn this morning about the tragic passing of Sarah Katz, and our hearts go out to her family,” Panera wrote, according to CNN. “At Panera, we strongly believe in transparency around our ingredients. We will work quickly to thoroughly investigate this matter.”