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Woman alleges long-term heart problems caused by Panera Bread's caffeinated lemonade

A Rhode Island woman is suing Panera Bread, alleging the restaurant chain's caffeinated Charged Lemonade left her with long-term heart problems. 

Lauren Skerritt, 28, "was an athlete and worked out regularly" before ordering and consuming two-and-a-half Charged Lemonades at a Panera location in Greenville, Rhode Island, on April 8, 2023, according to the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Delaware, where Panera is incorporated.

After drinking the lemonade, Skerritt allegedly experienced episodes of palpitations and dizziness, symptoms she had not had before, according to the lawsuit. The next day, she went to the Emergency Department at Rhode Island Hospital, where she was treated for atrial fibrillation — an irregular heartbeat that can lead to a stroke, heart complications and other serious health problems, the lawsuit said.

Lauren Skerritt participated in many athletic events  before developing a heart condition, according to her attorneys. Kline & Specter PC

An occupational therapist and vegetarian, the primary reason Skerritt order the drink was because it was advertised as "plant-based" and "clean," according to the complaint.

Now prescribed medication, Skerritt suffers from recurring episodes of rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, brain fog, body shakes and weakness, and has developed a tremor in one hand, the suit claims. Skerritt can no longer work, exercise or socialize at her previous capacity, and she and her husband have put their plan of starting a family on hold due to her condition. 

Panera did not respond to a request for comment.

Panera faces lawsuit over charged lemonade death 00:27

Panera Charged Lemonade lawsuits

Panera's Charged Lemonade is also the subject of two wrongful deaths suits, filed in October and December. 

Dennis Brown of Fleming Island, Florida, drank three of the drinks — unknowingly consuming high levels of caffeine — at a local Panera on October 9, 2023, before suffering a fatal cardiac arrest while walking home, the December suit alleges.

Another complaint was filed in October by the family of 21-year-old Sarah Katz, a college student with a heart condition who died in September 2022 after drinking a Charged Lemonade beverage.

The Katz case is in the process of discovery and deposition scheduling and the Brown case will be entering the phase of discovery soon, Elizabeth Crawford, a partner at Kline & Specter who is involved in all three legal actions, told CBS MoneyWatch on Thursday.

The caffeine content in the product ranges from 260 milligrams to 390 milligrams, with a 30-ounce Panera Charged Lemonade exceeding the combined 12 ounces of Red Bull with 114 milligrams of caffeine and 16 ounces of Monster Energy Drink, which contains 160 milligrams of caffeine, the lawsuit alleges.

Panera's website currently lists the Charged drinks as ranging from 124 milligrams of caffeine to as much as 236 milligrams. 

Additional warnings

The beverages labeled by Panera as Charged Sips should be consumed in moderation, the company's website now states. "Not recommended for children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant or nursing women," a banner on the site currently reads.

Crawford said she interprets these changes, which she said were made after the initial suit was filed, as a sign the cases have merit.

"Panera has taken actions to decrease the caffeine in the product, they've put up additional warnings and they placed it behind the counter now so it's not accessible to all," Crawford told CBS MoneyWatch in December, before the latest suit was filed.

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