Massachusetts wrongful death: FDA takes on energy drink makers

A wrongful death civil lawsuit in Massachusetts is not limited to fatal motor vehicle accidents. Rather, our laws deem a wrongful death to have occurred whenever someone loses their life as a consequence of the negligence of another. If the negligence is deemed to have caused or substantially contributed to the death complained of, liability may attach in a civil legal proceeding. One area of potential personal injury and wrongful death litigation involves the manufacturing and sale of so-called energy drinks.

A significant number of personal injuries and some fatalities suffered by those ingesting these drinks have caused regulators to focus on the ingredients that comprise these popular items. Amid reports that consumers are spending more than $12 billion annually to purchase these items, the FDA has identified the dietary supplement dimethylamylamine as a potential culprit. The federal Food and Drug Administration has stepped up efforts to educate consumers to the potential dangers, as well as to go after drink makers that use the illegal supplement, otherwise known as DMAA. The supplement has not been approved for use as an additive in energy drinks in the absence of proof that it is safe for consumers.

At least one Massachusetts internist, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, likened DMAA to an amphetamine. He noted that his patients get addicted and suffer from headaches when they stop using the drinks. Part of the confusion is attributable to the lengthy process the FDA must navigate in order to have the drug removed from the marketplace.

In the meantime, consumers are at risk. Chief among the potential victims are teenagers, and emergency room visits over side-effects from the drinks have reportedly doubled in four years. As many as 20,000 victims went to emergency rooms for treatment in 2011 alone, and some of those patients died. As the FDA continues to fight for the outright ban of DMAA in drinks already laced with caffeine, those that are victimized — including the surviving families of those that are killed — continue to have rights under our personal injury and wrongful death laws.

Source: The Boston Globe, “Energy drinks: FDA warns against DMAA,” Deborah Kotz, April 15, 2013

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