First Lawsuits Filed Involving Injuries Caused by Four Loko Type Beverages


June 12, 2011

In 2005, three enterprising youths from Ohio State University came up with the idea to concoct a drink made up of four primary ingredients including alcohol, caffeine, taurine, and guarana.

They came up with the idea for the new beverage after noticing that college students were mixing alcohol and caffeine while drinking in bars to increase their endurance for prolonged periods of partying.

In a year's time, they formed their manufacturing company, Phusion LLC, and began selling their drink called Four Loko around stores at their college. The beverage came in 23-ounce cans and the "Four" in the name stood for the four main ingredients mentioned above that were in the drink. One can of Four Loko was equivalent to drinking six beers and five cups of coffee. The dose of malt liquor in one can was about 12 oz and the drinks came in different fruity flavors.

Through 2006 Four Loko continued to gain popularity, and the company was selling it to other college students throughout the Midwest. The company even developed an unofficial slogan: "horny, hyper, and happy." Some students actually had dubbed it "blackout in a can," and "liquid cocaine."

The Brand Grows

In the two years between 2007 to 2009, distribution spread to 46 states throughout the U.S. In 2008, the company began selling its product in Europe. Subsequently, regulators from the FDA notified the company that they were going to start looking into the safety of their product and similar beverages. Other big producers of these types of beverages had already started to remove the ingredients, like caffeine, from the drinks.

The Bans Start

Problems with the drink started occurring in 2010. In the fall of that year, Ramapo College in New Jersey banned the drink when 17 students and 6 others got sick from the drink. A month later 9 students at Central Washington University had to go to the hospital after mixing Four Loko with hard liquor. The students were treated for acute alcohol poisoning.

Then a mere one-month later, deaths of college students as a result of drinking Four Loko started to be reported. A young man in Florida killed himself, which his parents contended was caused by Four Loko. The parents filed suit against the company Phusion LLC. A fatal car crash in Maryland that caused the death of passengers involved in the collision was also blamed on drivers who were impaired by Four Loko. As the number of incidents continued to mount, colleges across the country start banning Four Loko from its campuses. Grocery chains also pulled it from their shelves, and then whole states, including Washington, Michigan, Utah, and Oklahoma began to forbid its sale.

Phusion Products Tries to Make Good

The makers of Four Loko began to circle the wagons as sales slumped and the controversy grew. Phusion LLC embarked on a public relations campaign targeting college administrators and promoting responsible use of the company’s product. The company even offered to provide financial support for alcohol education efforts on college campuses.

The sinking ship kept taking on water despite these efforts, however, and the company finally agreed to remove caffeine from Four Loko in the middle of November 2010. Meanwhile states like Kansas and New York joined the list of states enforcing a ban on the drink.

The Problem

Dr. Miller from the University of Buffalo suggests that drinks like Four Loko help further the myth that if people are drinking caffeine along with alcohol then it will help keep them sober. There is absolutely no truth to this notion. If you drink too much alcohol, you are going to get intoxicated. The only thing that will help alleviate the impairment of one’s sensory perception, judgement and motor skills associated with intoxication is the passage of time. Caffeine or drinking coffee just makes you "think" you are not intoxicated. An alert or wide awake drunk is still going to suffer impairment of their driving skills.

The Lawsuits

In April, a lawsuit was filed by a man in New Jersey against the drink company claiming that Four Loko causes heart damage. In another lawsuit filed this month, a mother is claiming that the beverage contributed to the death of her 15-year-old son. He drank two cans of Four Loko before he went to a concert. The boy's mother had to go pick him up from the concert after he was kicked out for being intoxicated. On the way home, the boy jumped out of the car landing in the middle of the street. As he sat disoriented in the middle of the street, he was hit by an oncoming SUV. The young man died the next day in the hospital.

The mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company. The suit alleges that the drink was "deliberately different" than other alcoholic drinks and more dangerous. The store that sold the youth the drink may also share liability because the boy was sold the beverage even though he was only 15. Most state dram shop laws impose liability on those who provide alcohol to those who are under the legal age of 21.

At Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, we know that no sum of money can truly compensate you for the loss of someone you love. However, we also know that you may face real economic challenges including loss of family income, extraordinary medical bills and funeral expenses when a family member is killed by the careless, reckless or intentional misconduct of another. The attorneys of Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, have been representing families just like yours in Atlanta and throughout Georgia for over 27 years.

We invite you to call Montlick & Associates today to see how our experienced Georgia wrongful death lawyers can help. We are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Dalton, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. Call us today for your free consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333), or visit us on the web at www.montlick.com. No matter where you are, we are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you.

Category: Personal Injury

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