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Parents file wrongful death suit against Four Loko manufacturer

Although it hasn't been in the news much lately, the caffeine-laced alcoholic energy drink Four Loko continues to cause pain and suffering for families in New Jersey and throughout the United States. The parents of a 15-year-old boy who was killed in a Four Loko-related car accident recently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturer of the beverage, claiming that it was responsible for the death of their young son.

The fatality occurred when the boy was at a tailgate event before a concert last fall. Prior to arriving at the event, the boy purchased two cans of Four Loko at a convenience store. He drank both large cans, and then reportedly began acting erratically, forcing concert organizers to call his mother to come pick the boy up.

The boy's mother complied and came to drive her son home. As they drove, the boy's behavior became "erratic and agitated," the mother said. When they reached their neighborhood, the boy exited the vehicle and took off on foot. He either sat or fell down on a highway and was hit by an oncoming car. He was transported to a nearby hospital, but died the following day.

A few weeks after the boy's death, amidst hundreds of complaints of the beverage's harmful effects, manufacturer Phusion Projects announced that it would remove caffeine and all other stimulants from the beverage. Previously, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had warned the manufacturer that caffeine was an "unsafe food additive" when it was combined with alcohol in large quantities, as in Four Loko.

The boy's family has used this warning and Phusion's subsequent remedial action in the lawsuit against the company, alleging that Phusion was "careless and negligent" in producing a beverage that "desensitizes users to the symptoms of intoxication and increases the potential for alcohol-related harm."

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Maker of Four Loko hit with wrongful death suit," Ellen Gabler, 19 May 2011

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