Wrongful Death Suit Against Monster Beverage Heads to Mediation
A California judge Thursday ordered Monster Beverage to mediation Nov. 26 in a wrongful death suit that alleges the company's energy drinks were responsible for a teen's death.
Monster is being sued by the parents of a 14-year-old Maryland girl who died after consuming two of the company's drinks within 24 hours in the fall of 2012. Her parents allege the highly caffeinated drink is to blame. A coroner's report in Maryland agreed saying Anais Fournier died of "cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity." The girl also, however, had an existing heart problem, but not one that was severe enough for doctors to limit her activities or to warn her away from caffeine.
"Anais' parents were hoping a trial date would be set at the hearing and they're frustrated that despite mounting evidence that energy drinks are dangerous and should not be consumed by children or anyone with an underlying heart condition, Monster continues to sell thousands of energy drinks to young people every day," said Kevin Goldberg, the attorney representing the Fournier family.
California-based Monster declined to comment on Thursday's ruling, but in the past they have denied their drinks are dangerous.
Earlier this year an attorney representing the beverage maker said two doctors the company hired found no evidence to support claims Anais Fournier died due to consuming their drink.
Monster has also said in the past that there is often more caffeine in a cup of coffee then in its drinks. Critics charge coffee isn't usually consumed by children and it isn't usually aggressively gulped like Monster's beverages.
One attorney with experience litigating cases in California said now that the case is going to mediation, it could still go either way for either party. The best-case scenario for Monster was to have it thrown out of court, he said, while the best-case scenario for the plaintiff might have been a jury trial.
Meanwhile, Monster continues to defend itself against other litigation. The city of San Francisco also sued Monster earlier this year, saying it was marketing its drinks to children.
The attorney for the Fournier family also has made similar arguments, saying: "Monster continues to target their marketing towards children like Anais, teenagers and young adults and they continue to tell the public their product is completely safe. We remain confident that we will win this case and look forward to proving that Anais died as a direct result of her consumption of Monster Energy Drink."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is also investigating a handful of other deaths to see if they were linked to Monster's drinks.
(Read More: Energy Drinks Linked to Adverse Health Effects)
Monster shares inched higher Friday. The stock was trading as high as $79 a share last summer but after the allegations in the Fournier case it fell to $39. It has since recovered and is now trading at about $55.27.
-By CNBC's Jason Gerwitz