Red Bull beverage maker hit with first wrongful death suit

by | Nov 22, 2013 | News

Michael Berezhnoy
News Reporter

People should think twice before buying an energy drink as a “wake-me-up”.

Red Bull is being sued for US$85 million by the family of a 33-year-old Brooklyn man who died while playing basketball, shortly after consuming their energy drink, in what is believed to be the first wrongful death suit against the company.

According to his family, Cory Terry was a construction worker who was healthy, active, and a non-smoker, but he regularly consumed a lot of Red Bull.

In November of 2011, while playing basketball, Terry consumed a can of Red Bull. He became lightheaded and collapsed shortly afterwards.

When he was taken to the hospital, doctors discovered he had suffered from idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy, meaning that his heart had simply stopped beating. They were unable to pinpoint any causes as to why he had died.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has previously confirmed 18 deaths that had a suspected link to energy drinks, and in a study released in 2009 stated that there had been 13,000 emergency room visits related to energy drink consumption.

Since 2011, energy drinks in Canada have been regulated by Health Canada, who has established limits on caffeine from any source in an energy drink, as well as labeling regulations.

“Now, 180 milligrams of caffeine is the maximum amount allowed per single serve container, which is 591 millilitres, so a pop bottle,” said Stefano Zannella, a pharmacist at the Sunnybrook Odettes Cancer Centre.

“They also made it so that the labels would have to tell people that there is a high amount of caffeine, and that it is not recommended for children or pregnant/breastfeeding women,” he said.

Many students remark they use energy drinks as an alternative to coffee or other drinks to help them through their days. I used to work at a nightclub, and that’s when I started drinking energy drinks,” said Liz Birkett, 28, a first-year funeral services student at Humber College.

“I don’t drink them very much anymore, but they help me when I’m feeling sluggish.”

With more and more people, especially adolescents, turning to high-energy alternatives to get through long stressful days, some believe that the solution isn’t in a quick energy boost at all, but a good overall diet.

“We want to make sure that there is access to affordable food with high nutritional content,” said Caitlin Smith, the campaigns coordinator for the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario, which does campaign and advocacy work for student interests.

“I think that having this kind of access would enhance students’ studying and learning habits, so that they wouldn’t be looking to things like energy drinks to get them through the day.”