California court revives lawsuit over dangerous drink 'Four Loko'

California court revives lawsuit over dangerous drink 'Four Loko'

The effects of alcohol have long been studied and understood, as have the effects of caffeine. These two socially acceptable and legal drugs are used by the majority of American adults with relative frequency.

But how these two drugs affect the body when consumed together is not as well known. Frequent college-aged partiers have been known to consume coffee and energy drinks as a way of counteracting the depressive effects of alcohol. But one product became famous for mixing alcohol and caffeine in a prepackaged beverage. That product is called “Four Loko.” Although it is no longer manufactured with caffeine, a California appellate court has ruled that a lawsuit against the manufacturer can proceed related to a death that occurred while the product was being made under its original formula.

The lawsuit was filed by the father of a 23-year-old man who was shot to death by police in October 2010. The young man allegedly became erratic, paranoid, agitated and disoriented after consuming two cans of Four Loko and some beer at a friend’s apartment.

At that time, a single 23.5-ounce can of Four Loko contained nearly as much alcohol as a six-pack of beer (in 12. Oz cans). The caffeine content was equivalent to approximately two cups of coffee. As such, the young man had consumed alcohol approximately equivalent to a 12-pack of beer and caffeine approximately equivalent to four cups of coffee.

To put this in perspective, one can of Four Loko would apparently have been enough to make a 225-pound man too intoxicated to drive legally.

The victim did drive home that night, and his roommates said that he was speaking and behaving in an uncharacteristic, paranoid way. He then grabbed a shotgun and headed out into the backyard where he started shooting at targets. Police were called, and the young man was eventually killed in a standoff.

Even though the effects of alcohol and caffeine are well-understood in isolation, they are not as well understood when consumed together. According to the plaintiff in this lawsuit, the combination of these drugs in Four Loko created the dangerous behaviors and conditions that led to his son’s death.

Source: Courthouse News Service,” Four Loko Brewer Must Face Death-Liability Suit,” Elizabeth Warmerdam, Nov. 7, 2014

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