Lawsuit claims Panera’s caffeinated charged lemonade now responsible for second death

ATLANTA — Panera Bread is now facing a second wrongful death lawsuit tied to its charged lemonade.

The family of a 21-year-old college student says she died from cardiac arrest after drinking the caffeinated drink, and now a family in Florida says another man died the same way.

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Channel 2 Cobb County Bureau Chief Michele Newell went to a metro Panera location Monday where she found a sign outside the restaurant that warns consumers of caffeine in the charged lemonades, saying the drinks may not be for everyone.

The caffeinated lemonade is advertised as an instant energy boost – plant-based and clean.

A lawsuit filed on Monday, alleges Panera’s charged lemonades caused Dennis Brown, 46, to go into cardiac arrest after he left the restaurant on Oct. 9.

“Dennis wanted to do well. He would let us know when he got the fruit instead of a cookie,” said Deann Burgess, Brown’s supportive living coach.

Those who knew Brown were proud of his accomplishments as he conquered the challenges that came with having a chromosomal disorder.

Brown was an advocate for others with disabilities in Florida and loved making others smile as he bagged groceries at Publix for nearly 20 years.

“The last day I saw him, he and I had been in the bathroom. He allowed me to cut his nails, which was unheard of, shave him, groom him. He looked amazing. Really amazing,” Burgess said.

According to the lawsuit, Brown had charged lemonades with his early dinner at the Panera near his job in Florida and died while he was walking home.

Receipts in the lawsuit show what brown ordered and when it was ready for pickup.

“Any time I was ever there with him, he had three drinks,” Burgess said. “Dennis did not buy energy drinks or anything like that.”

Brown’s family says he avoided energy drinks because he had high blood pressure.

A large, charged lemonade has 390 milligrams of caffeine, close to the FDA’s 400-milligram daily maximum intake.

Panera’s 30-ounce charged lemonade contains more caffeine than Red Bull and Monster energy drinks, combined.


The lawsuit alleges Brown had been drinking the charged lemonades for six days and was a member of Panera’s sip club where you can order unlimited drinks.

“It is an avoidable tragedy because this is a toxic super-energy drink that should not be on the shelves in Panera. And if it’s going to be on the shelves, which it shouldn’t be, then it should be adequately warmed,” attorney Elizabeth Crawsford said.

Warning signs began to surface at Panera after the company was hit with a lawsuit in October, alleging 21-year-old Sarah Katz, a University of Pennsylvania student, had a heart condition and died after drinking the charged lemonades.

“She was very vigilant to avoid caffeine. She never drank coffee,” Katz’s roommate said at the time.

Now, on Panera’s mobile app in the beverage section is a warning: “Consume in moderation, not recommended for children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant or nursing women.”

That’s something Brown’s family and friends wish existed before his untimely death.

“He was very devoted to his family and friends,” Burgess said.

Panera released a statement about Monday’s lawsuit, saying:

“Panera expresses our deep sympathy for Mr. Brown’s family. Based on our investigation we believe his unfortunate passing was not caused by one of the company’s products. We view this lawsuit which was filed by the same law firm as a previous claim to be equally without merit. Panera stands firmly by the safety of our products.”

The FDA also sent Newell a statement, saying:

“The FDA is saddened to hear of the passing of a consumer and as always, takes seriously reports of illnesses or injury from regulated products. While the FDA generally does not comment on possible, pending or ongoing litigation, the agency monitors the marketplace of FDA-regulated products and takes action as appropriate, including collaborating with the Federal Trade Commission regarding marketing claims.”


Michele Newell

Michele Newell, WSB-TV

Michele Newell has been part of the WSB-TV family since November 2021. Before moving to Atlanta, Michele worked at TV news stations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Columbus, Ohio and Steubenville, Ohio.