February 23, 2024

Panera Bread and its Charged Lemonade are once again headed to court. This week, a Rhode Island woman filed a lawsuit alleging that the highly caffeinated beverage caused her to develop long-term heart problems. The suit follows two wrongful death claims brought against the chain eatery last year by families of the deceased.

As first reported by CBS Moneywatch, the 28-year-old plaintiff, Lauren Skerritt, filed her civil lawsuit Tuesday in Delaware, where the company is incorporated. The suit alleges that Skerritt purchased and drank two and a half Charged Lemonades at a Panera in Greenville, Rhode Island on April 8, 2023. Skerritt reportedly began to experience palpitations and dizziness soon after. The next day, she felt so sick that she visited the emergency room at the Rhode Island Hospital, where she was treated for atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat.

Skerritt claims that, prior to the incident, she was an athlete who regularly exercised. But since then, she has reportedly continued to suffer recurrent symptoms that have even delayed her plans to have children. These symptoms include shortness of breath, a rapid heartbeat, brain fog, and an inability to exert herself as hard as before.

The first legal claim of harm tied to Panera’s Charged Lemonades emerged last October, when the family of 21-year-old Sarah Katz sued Panera and alleged that her fatal cardiac arrest in September 2022 was caused by the drink. In early December 2023, the family of 46-year-old Dennis Brown sued Panera as well, alleging that the drink played a part in Brown’s heart-related death that October. All three cases are being represented by the law firm Kline & Specter, CBS Moneywatch reported.

A general theme in these complaints is that the company had not done enough to appropriately warn customers about the high levels of caffeine in its Charged Lemonade line of products. At the time of these incidents, Panera stated that a large beverage contained about 390 milligrams of caffeine—just below the 400 milligrams a day cap recommended for most people by the Food and Drug Administration.

Panera has denied culpability in Brown and Katz’s deaths, but it appears to have since lowered the caffeine content of the drinks, which also were rebranded as Charged Sips sometime last summer. On Panera’s website, a single-serving beverage is now said to contain between 124 and 236 milligrams of caffeine, depending on the size and flavor. The company has also added what it calls “enhanced” disclosures that tell consumers to drink these beverages in moderation and that the drinks are “not recommended for children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant or nursing women.”

Panera has not yet responded to the claims in this latest lawsuit, CBS Moneywatch reported. Gizmodo reached out to the company for comment but did not receive a reply by the time of publication.