Woman sues Panera for ‘permanent cardiac injuries’ from Charged Lemonade

Back in December, we talked about Panera’s hyper caffeinated Charged Lemonade drink. Charged Lemonades contain almost 300mg of caffeine, which makes one single drink equal to almost three cups of coffee. It also has more caffeine and sugar than Red Bull or a Monster energy drink. In October 2023, the families of 21-year-old Sarah Katz and 46-year-old Dennis Brown filed wrongful death lawsuits against Panera for deceptive advertising. They claimed that rather than promoting it as an energy drink, the company advertised the lemonades as a “plant-based and clean” beverage with the same amount of caffeine as a dark roast coffee. Panera, for its part, denied culpability in both deaths and said it would make sure people were aware of Charged Lemonade’s high caffeine content.

Last week, another lawsuit was filed against Panera over the Charged Lemonade. This time, 28-year-old Lauren Skerritt alleges that despite not having any underlying medical conditions, the drink caused her to have “permanent cardiac injuries.” Skerritt’s incident occurred back in April after she drank two-and-a-half (!!!) Charged Lemonades and ended up in the hospital twice. As a result, she has long-lasting physical effects that prevent her from leading a normal life.

Lauren Skerritt filed a legal complaint against the bakery chain on Jan. 16. The 28-year-old athlete claims that drinking Charged Lemonade caused her to have “permanent cardiac injuries” despite having “no underlying medical conditions,” per the documents obtained by PEOPLE.

On April 8, Skerritt, an occupational therapist, who played soccer and often competed in obstacle course races, consumed two and a half Charged Lemonades from a Panera in Greenville, Rhode Island. After, she experienced several episodes of palpitations, which she says she has never experienced before, causing her to go to the hospital.

While at the hospital, she experienced a syncopal episode. She was moved to critical care as her heart rate was up in the 180s to 190s. She revisited the hospital on Aug. 30 to be treated for early onset atrial fibrillation and testing showed no evidence of underlying structural heart disease, according to the complaint.

Prior to drinking the lemonades, Skerritt “worked out regularly” but now, months after consuming the beverage, Skerritt alleges that she can no longer exercise, socialize or work in the same capacity. The complaint also claims that since drinking the lemonades Skerritt has experienced shortness of breath, palpitations, brain fog, difficulty thinking and concentrating, body shakes, and weakness. She takes daily medication to regulate her heart rate and rhythm.

A representative for Panera did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment on Skerritt’s complaint. Elizabeth Crawford of Kline and Specter, PC. who is representing Skerritt, said in a statement that Skerritt was “seriously injured by Panera’s toxic super energy drink.” Crawford is also representing the families of two people who died after drinking the Charged Lemonades.

[From People]

Yikes, that’s quite terrifying that all of that can happen to your body from one triggering event like that. I’m serious. I’m sorry for what Lauren went through and hope that her body is able to recover over time. At what point is Panera going to reevaluate the actual ingredients of this drink rather than just how to market it? What is the target audience for a drink that has that much damn caffeine? If they’re not going to lower the caffeine content, then I really think that Panera just needs to pull Charged Lemonades off the shelf and cut their losses on this one before more people get hurt or worse.

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21 Responses to “Woman sues Panera for ‘permanent cardiac injuries’ from Charged Lemonade”

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  1. Whyforthelove says:

    This is insane. People are just going to get refills not thinking of the caffeine count, that reasonably is to be expected which means they will continue to be liable. More importantly they are hurting people. Who does the continued selling of this drink benefit? Why on earth is it still available.

    • Concern Fae says:

      My guess is that whoever invented this in the test kitchen intended it to be served in a single serving size with the espresso drinks. Someone who didn’t understand what it was moved it to the self serve drinks. Why they haven’t made it a one size no refills drink by now is beyond me. They may be afraid of admitting they were wrong. But there are so many lawsuits. It’s going to come out.

    • Another Anne says:

      The Paneras near us pulled all the charged drinks right after the initial reports of problems. I’m surprised to hear they’re still selling them elsewhere.

  2. Barnabus says:

    Dennis Brown had multiple medical conditions and drank three cups of lemonade. Sarah Katz had a heart condition. Lauren Skerritt drank nearly three cups. Panera is not liable for the outcomes in any of these cases. Consumers need to take responsibility for what they put in their bodies. If you drink a bottle of vodka, get drunk, and cause/have an accident, you can’t blame the vodka manufacturer for the effects of their product.

    • Chloe says:

      Yeah but you know that a bottle of vodka is bad for you. All of these incidents happened when Panera was still marketing this as a healthy, plant-based lemonade that also had one cup of coffee’s worth of caffeine in it.

    • Becks1 says:

      the bottle of vodka has warnings all over it, so not a good comparison.

    • Kokiri says:

      And so they deserved to die. Just say it out loud, because that’s what you actually mean.
      These people trusted a product & because you think they didn’t do their due diligence, they deserved to die for it.

      Also, if you get drunk in bar & they keep serving you & then something happens (accident, etc) that bar is liable. Where I live, that bar is liable.

      • Barbiem says:

        Thinking people need to take responsibility for what they put in their bodies and thinking they deserve to die are 2 different thinks. You sound unhinged.

      • Barnabus says:

        Kokiri. Your deductive reasoning is completely off-base. People with medical conditions need to go the extra mile in monitoring what they eat and drink. Failure to do so can have fatal consequences. My example of drinking a bottle of vodka was about over-consumption. People have died from alcohol poisoning after mass consumption in a short period but to my knowledge, no alcohol manufacturers have been held accountable or liable. Super-sized sodas never came with a warning — and were never promoted as being healthy — but they’ve been slowly phased out due to health risks. Anyone drinking something called Charged Lemonade might have wanted to check the label first. If I had a heart conditioning, I absolutely would have.

  3. Pittie Mom says:

    It’s baffling to me that they are still selling this. The optics are terrible and no one needs that much caffeine in a single serving (and I say that as a black coffee drinker who has 2-3 cups each morning).

    • FancyPants says:

      Exactly- who is this drink even intended for? How do they keep children from getting it? [How are people not projectile crapping their pants in the middle of drinking this?]

    • Whyforthelove says:

      Thank you! It takes some time to drink 2-3 cups of coffee and everyone knows to expect coffee to have caffeine and regulate accordingly. I can pound a lemonade in 3 minutes if I’m thirsty. I remember this same thing happened in the 90’s with Jolt cola and guess what they stopped selling it. People died there is no coming back from that?!?! Put a damn warning label on it and sell it as only one serving. Make people affirmatively choose to get a second serving and pay for more caffeine or just take the loss and stop adding to the problem ?!?! I say this as an attorney and a damn human being

  4. Plums says:

    I go to Panera a lot for lunch and tried the charged lemonades a couple times, but never became a regular drinker of them because the green tea is my go-to, and the charged drinks honestly didn’t taste good, imo. They absolutely tasted like energy drinks, which doesn’t mesh well with a meal, imo. But can also confirm they were sold as a “green” alternative to a regular cup of coffee, not an energy drink, and when they were first introduced, the fact that they were caffeinated at all wasn’t prominent on the signage. really think Panera fucked up on this one.

  5. Lizzie Bathory says:

    Her symptoms (abnormal heart rate, shortness of breath, brain fog, etc) with no underlying condition all sound very much like the effects of long COVID, which I’m sure will have to be ruled out.

    Still, it seems nuts to continue selling such a heavily caffeinated drink as just lemonade, especially after they’ve already been sued. I’m guessing they’ll wind up pulling the product eventually.

  6. Bumblebee says:

    Selling this as a fountain drink with free refills? So irresponsible. And to people putting this all on the consumer…I guess you haven’t noticed all the safety regulations food manufacturers are required to follow. There is a lot of reasons for that. This drink is a great example of that.

  7. Duck says:

    Another issue is that Panera in general markets themselves as having healthy, clean food unlike McDonald’s or Burger King. I could totally see someone thinking this is just regular lemonade with some caffeine added. I know if I ordered from Panera and hadn’t read about these drinks, I might’ve ordered one. The other issue is that these drinks are mixed by Panera staff in store. I would imagine the concentration isn’t consistent from store to store, so you can’t necessarily say the caffeine content is exactly what the website says.

  8. Bad Janet says:

    These things are a serious problem simply for not being advertised appropriately and not being safely placed in the restaurant. I went to Panera for dinner with my family and my 10 year old son filled up his cup with charged lemonade and started drinking it while I was filling up my cup from the fountain (this was AFTER the lawsuits began and all Paneras were supposed to have them behind the counter). I stopped it quickly, but he had already downed 1/3 a cup and had trouble sleeping from the caffeine. There was literally NO signage on the beverage container saying it was “charged lemonade,” either, just their flavor names! I was pissed. They can sell monster drink equivalents if they want, but that is straight up irresponsible and they deserve to be sued for it.

  9. Desdemona says:

    Why can’t people just drink water, plain water? It’s so satisfying. All these poisonous drinks should be forbidden. They’re just drugs, as addictive and harmful as tobacco or alcoholic beverages…

  10. Alexa says:

    I can believe that this wrecks havoc on your system… one cup of Charged has more caffeine (390mg) than 10 cans of coke (34mg?) each). If she drank 2.5 cups, wow…

  11. Veronica S. says:

    Eh, I once double shot an intense stimulant by accident. While it fucked my sleep, I didn’t have permanent injuries. My guess is she had an underlying minor condition that was undiagnosed and would’ve been triggered eventually, but that’s exactly why they should probably pull the drinks. Why risk the harm and potential lawsuits? It’s frankly shocking that they’re even bothering to keep it.