I’m a plaintiffs’ product liability lawyer. I’m therefore generally on the side of those who are injured by defective products. But this lawsuit epitomizes a frivolous lawsuit:
Janice Rivera, 20, was ejected from a car on State Road 417 in an Aug. 13 crash in Seminole County. The driver of the car, Danielle C. Joseph, 20, who is also named a defendant in the suit, drank the energy drink Four Loco before she struck another car while driving at a high rate of speed.
So, an underage girl illegally consumes some Four Loco. She then drives at a high rate of speed while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage. Her underage passenger is injured and sues the manufacturer of the drink.
I’m probably a bit more pro-plaintiff than your average juror, and even I think that Four Loco shouldn’t pay a dime here. For one thing, the driver who consumed the beverage was underage and thus illegally consumed the beverage. That alone should absolve Four Loco of any liability.
The case is even worse if the passenger knew that the driver had been drinking. If you voluntarily step into a vehicle that’s being driven by someone you know has been drinking, you’re an idiot. And juries don’t like to give money to idiots.
Four Loco, which is premixed with the stimulants taurine, guarine and caffeine, are made to appeal to younger drinkers because "it tastes more like a soft drink than an alcoholic beverage," Rivera's lawsuit states.
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"The presence of stimulants in an alcoholic beverage is a dangerous and potentially fatal combination," the suit states. "Because the consumer will engage in dangerous behavior such as driving because he or she will not feel intoxicated."
With respect to the first point about flavoring: Lots of (gross) people like to mix Red Bull with Vodka. Should Red Bull be held liable under the same theory? After all it’s reasonably foreseeable to Red Bull that someone will slam one back with a few shots of Vodka. And let’s not forget that Coke (or Pepsi) contains stimulants. People have been drinking Rum/Whiskey/etc. & Coke for years.
The second point about stimulants preventing people from feeling intoxicated is going to be problematic. Is there any reliable scientific evidence to back that up? Have their been any peer-reviewed studies to support it? “Feeling” drunk is obviously subjective and will thus be difficult to prove.
The first and second points imply that alcoholic beverage manufacturers are supposed to make awful-tasting drinks that make you feel intoxicated. I’m not aware of any legal authority that supports that implication.
My prediction: This case will not survive summary judgment. If it does survive summary judgment, I’ll buy the plaintiff’s lawyer a drink.