Family sues energy drink maker over girl's death

The parents of a 14-year-old Hagerstown girl who died in December are suing an energy drink company in a California court, alleging that caffeine in the beverages contributed to her death, according to court records.

A complaint filed Friday by Wendy Crossland and Richard Fournier states that their daughter, Anais Fournier, went into cardiac arrest after drinking two 24-ounce Monster Beverage Corp. drinks within a 24-hour period. Monster is based in Riverside County, Calif., where the case was filed.

Fournier was "unconscious when emergency personnel arrived at her home," the complaint said. At Johns Hopkins Hospital, doctors induced a coma in an attempt to reduce brain swelling. After several days, "the decision was made to terminate life support," it said.

The opinion of the Maryland medical examiner's office is that Fournier died of cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity that impeded her heart's ability to pump blood. The autopsy report also concluded that Fournier suffered from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome — an inherited disorder that can make connective tissues, like skin and blood vessel walls, flexible and weak, according to the Mayo Clinic.

"Monster does not believe that its beverages are in any way responsible for the death of Ms. Fournier," Evan Pondel, a spokesman for the company, said in a statement Friday. "Monster is unaware of any fatality anywhere that has been caused by its drinks. The Fournier family has chosen to file a lawsuit, which Monster intends to vigorously defend and, in light of such pending litigation, Monster's policy is to not comment further."

In addition to wrongful death, Fournier's parents are contending that Monster failed to warn of their beverage's potential dangers, that the drinks are "unreasonably dangerous and defective," and that Monster was negligent in the design, manufacture and sale of the drinks.