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Family sues Panera, saying its caffeinated lemonade led to Florida man's cardiac arrest

FILE - A Panera Bread logo is attached to the outside of a Panera Bread restaurant location, Dec. 20, 2022, in Westwood, Mass. The family of a 46-year-old Florida man has filed a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit against Panera, claiming its caffeine-filled lemonade drink led to his death. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

FLEMING ISLAND, Fla. (AP) — The family of a 46-year-old Florida man has filed a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit against one of the biggest fast-casual restaurant chains in the U.S., claiming Panera Bread Company's caffeine-filled lemonade drink led to his death.

David Brown had high blood pressure and didn't drink energy drinks, but the lawsuit said he believed the Panera Charged Lemonade was safe since it was not advertised as an energy drink. It was offered in the same place as the restaurant chain’s non-caffeinated or less-caffeinated drinks, according to the lawsuit filed Monday in Superior Court in Delaware, where Panera Bread Company is registered.

The lawsuit states that on Oct. 9, Brown had the drink three times during a visit to the Panera Bread Company location in Fleming Island, Florida. On his walk home, he suffered cardiac arrest and died a short time later. He had ordered a Panera Charged Lemonade at least seven times over the course of two weeks in September and October, according to the lawsuit.

“Defendants knew or should have known that the Panera Charged Lemonade, as designed and formulated, once consumed, could injure children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people sensitive to caffeine by causing catastrophic injuries and/or death,” the lawsuit said.

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No one from Panera’s corporate offices responded to an inquiry seeking comment Tuesday afternoon.

Brown had a chromosomal deficiency disorder, developmental delays, some blurred vision and mild intellectual disability, the lawsuit said. He had worked for 17 years at Publix Super Markets and would regularly go to the Panera restaurant after work for meals, as many as three times a week, because the lawsuit said he felt the chain advertised as being a healthy alternative to other restaurants.

Another wrongful death lawsuit was filed in October by the family of 21-year-old Sarah Katz, a University of Pennsylvania student with a heart condition who died in September 2022 after consuming the drink, according to media reports.

The privately-held Panera Bread Company, which is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, operates in 48 U.S. states and Canada.