Does anybody really think Red Bull is good for you? For a moment, I’m not talking about legal standards or product safety or efficacious warning labels. I’m asking, just between us, don’t we all know that ingesting caffeine and sugar bombs is not a healthy thing? People aren’t supposed to have wings. We are terrestrial beings. I’d guess that every ingested substance that has ever made humans feel like they’ve slipped the bonds of gravity is bad for you.

A Brooklyn man downed a Red Bull, played some basketball, had a heart attack, and died. Does it really surprise anybody that this happens every now and again?

Okay, now put your “law talking” hats back on. Is it a wrongful death when somebody drinks something, dies, and everybody besides the manufacturer kind of shrugs and thinks, “Yeah, that’ll dog you”? This lawsuit alleging fraud, failure to warn, and breach of warranty by Red Bull manufacturers is surprising only insofar as it hasn’t been brought a hundred times already…

The Daily News has the story:

Brooklyn father Cory Terry, 33, died during a basketball game after downing the caffeine-laden beverage — and his relatives are blaming the world’s largest energy drink maker.

Their $85 million lawsuit, to be filed Monday, is believed to be the first wrongful death suit against Red Bull.

The popular drink contains “extra stimulants that make it different than a cup of coffee,” said lawyer Ilya Novofastovsky. “They are more dangerous than what Red Bull lets on.”

If you didn’t think through the potential validity of the claim because of the ridiculous dollar figure, Eric Turkewitz at New York Personal Injury Law Blog says that it’s the fault of the plaintiff’s lawyer:

I’ll assume it’s all true because I have an altogether different bone to pick with Ilya Novofastovsky — he being the lawyer that brought this suit.

And that bone is with the claim for $85M for this unmarried construction worker who left behind a 13-year-old son. Now it’s not $85M in compensatory damages as the NY Daily News story would have you believe. It is $5M each for seven different causes of action plus $50M in punitive damages.

But here’s the problem: In New York, you aren’t allowed to put an ad damnum clause in a lawsuit. That’s the fancy pants Latin phrase for the monetary demand. New York outlawed this practice — a practice I’ve always despised — for medical malpractice cases in the 80s and for all personal injury cases in 2003. Ten. Years. Ago.

Turkewitz goes on to explain that plaintiff’s lawyers poison their own jury pool with outrageous monetary demands. The high dollar figure makes non-lawyers think that the plaintiff is just out looking for a quick buck.

I think that it’s going to be hard to prove that Red Bull caused anything with this fact pattern:

Terry, a construction worker from Bedford-Stuyvesant who left behind a 13-year-old son, was a healthy, active nonsmoker — and an avid Red Bull drinker, his grandmother Patricia Terry said.

“He drank that stuff all the time. He said it perked him up,” she recalled.

On the evening of Nov. 8, 2011, Terry was playing hoops in a gym at Stephen Decatur Middle School. After about 45 minutes, he gulped a can of Red Bull, became lightheaded and collapsed, records show…

The medic’s report referred to Terry’s consumption of the energy drink before his heart attack.

“I know he was healthy and I couldn’t find no other reason for why he died,” his grandmother said.

Oh, I think that Red Bull’s lawyers will be able to find a bunch of other reasons for why he died.

But the allegations that Red Bull fails to properly warn people of its dangers might have more sticking power.

We live in a world where cigarette companies are basically required to slap you upside the head before you buy a pack of smokes. It’s almost surprising that Red Bull isn’t required to package its cans with a defibrillator.

Brooklyn man killed by drinking Red Bull, $85 million lawsuit alleges [New York Daily News]
Death by Red Bull, An $85M Lawsuit, And The Money Shot [New York Personal Injury Law Blog]


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