Teen resuscitated from cardiac arrest after drinking Panera Charged Lemonade, lawsuit alleges (2024)

A Pennsylvania teenager had to be resuscitated in March when he went into cardiac arrest after he drank Panera Bread’s highly caffeinated Charged Lemonade, a lawsuit says.

The suit, obtained first by NBC News, was filed Monday in U.S. District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania just under two weeks after Panera announced it was discontinuing the controversial beverage. It is at least the fourth lawsuit filed against the bakery-cafe chain over the drink, which previous suits have blamed for two deaths and a woman’s permanent health problems.

Panera has denied wrongdoing in legal documents. It did not immediately respond to questions about Monday’s lawsuit.

The complaint alleges that Luke Adams, 18, had no known health issues when he bought a chicken sandwich and a large Charged Lemonade on March 9 in his hometown, Monroeville. That evening, Adams went to a movie theater with friends. While they were watching the film, a friend heard Adams making “unusual sounds,” the suit says. The friend then realized Adams had become unresponsive.

Teen resuscitated from cardiac arrest after drinking Panera Charged Lemonade, lawsuit alleges (1)

Two nurses and a cardiologist who happened to be in the theater performed CPR, the lawsuit said. They also used an automated external defibrillator to shock Adams’ heart — which undoubtedly helped his chances of surviving, said Dr. Andrew Pogozelski, the cardiologist who has treated Adams since the incident.

“He was about as close as you can come to being dead,” said Pogozelski, chief of cardiology at Allegheny Health Network’s Forbes Hospital in Monroeville. “This was about as unlucky as you can get for this to happen to an 18-year-old, otherwise healthy person — but about as lucky as you can get for people in the movie theater to know what they were doing.”

After he was rushed to the hospital, Adams had two seizures, according to his lawsuit. Medical notes included in the suit said that the seizures were of “unclear etiology, possibly related to cardiac arrest secondary to caffeine intake from Panera Charged Lemonade,” and that “heavy caffeine intake” was identified as the only potential trigger for his cardiac arrest.

Adams, a high school junior, said in an interview that he felt “extremely lucky” to have survived the cardiac arrest, which led to his being intubated during part of his hospitalization. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette first reported his ordeal several days before Panera announced it was discontinuing its Charged Lemonade.

Charged Lemonade contains caffeine from multiple sources, including the stimulant guarana extract. Lawsuits have referred to the beverage as a “dangerous energy drink” and blame it for the deaths of Sarah Katz, a University of Pennsylvania student with a heart condition, and Dennis Brown, a Florida man with a chromosomal deficiency disorder and a developmental delay. Another lawsuit alleges it caused “permanent cardiac injuries” in Lauren Skerritt, a Rhode Island woman. The suits are all ongoing, with the first set to go to trial in September.

The Food and Drug Administration says healthy adults can safely consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day. After it was sued, Panera put more detailed disclosures in all of its restaurants and on its website warning customers to consume Charged Lemonade in moderation, saying it is not recommended for children, people sensitive to caffeine or pregnant or nursing women.

Panera also moved the Charged Lemonade behind the counter so it was no longer self-serve and updated its nutrition information to reflect how much caffeine is in the drink with ice. Previously, it had advertised its Charged Lemonade as “Plant-based and Clean,” with as much caffeine as its dark roast coffee. But the lawsuits said that at 390 milligrams, a large, 30-fluid-ounce Charged Lemonade had more caffeine in total than any size of Panera’s dark roast coffee, referring to the caffeine in the drink with no ice.

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Monday’s lawsuit said that when Adams bought a large Mango Yuzu Citrus Charged Lemonade, which Panera lists as having 237 milligrams of caffeine with ice, “he was not aware that the Charged Lemonade was a super energy drink” that contained “high amounts” of sugar and guarana.

Pogozelski said Adams’ doctors could find no structural abnormalities in his heart and no underlying health conditions that would explain why he went into cardiac arrest. During his hospital stay, they implanted a subcutaneous defibrillator, a device that will shock Adams’ heart if he has a life-threatening heart rhythm in the future.

Adams’ mom said she is traumatized by how close she came to losing her son.

“Every night when I go to bed, the whole thing replays in my mind,” said Lisa Feyes, an emergency room nurse. “It’s really hard for me to watch Luke walk out the door.”

Teen resuscitated from cardiac arrest after drinking Panera Charged Lemonade, lawsuit alleges (2)

A Panera spokesperson declined to answer questions this month about whether previous lawsuits contributed to Panera’s phasing out the Charged Lemonade nationwide, saying the move came after a “recent menu transformation.”

Feyes said she cried when she heard the drink was being discontinued.

“They were tears of joy, because no other parent will ever have to go through this because of a Panera lemonade again,” she said.

Adams’ lawsuit, which seeks damages at a jury trial, accuses Panera of “negligence, carelessness, and recklessness” in the design, marketing and promotion of the Charged Lemonade, among other allegations.

Elizabeth Crawford, a partner at the Philadelphia-based law firm Kline & Specter PC, who represents Adams and the plaintiffs in the three other Charged Lemonade lawsuits, said what happened to Adams was preventable.

“This is a perfect and tragic example of why warnings are completely insufficient for this product and why this product should have been taken off the shelves before the situation happened,” she said, adding that Panera “certainly” should have removed the Charged Lemonade after the first lawsuit was filed, if not before.

“It was a traumatic experience for both Luke and his family,” Crawford added. “It was just so unexpected.”

Elizabeth Chuck

Elizabeth Chuck is a reporter for NBC News who focuses on health and mental health, particularly issues that affect women and children.

Teen resuscitated from cardiac arrest after drinking Panera Charged Lemonade, lawsuit alleges (2024)
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