Red Bull energy drink class action

by Walter Olson on January 18, 2013

Class action lawyers have filed suit saying that contrary to its marketing, the popular beverage doesn’t actually “give you wings.” [Reuters, ABA Journal] Meanwhile, the same scientific observation that underlies the lawyers’ action — that pharmacologically, the drinks don’t seem to deliver effects readily distinguishable from those of a strong coffee — is hard to square with the oft-expressed fear that Red Bull et al pose unusual risks to consumers, although the New York Times does seem to manage to keep both ideas in its head at once. [Jacob Sullum]

More: Ron Miller, in comments (“this completely mischaracterizes the lawsuit”).

{ 5 comments }

1 kimsch 01.18.13 at 2:52 am

And Lucky Charms are “Magically” delicious. One would hope a judge would dismiss it on its face.

2 Ron Miller 01.18.13 at 11:40 am

I think this completely mischaracterizes the lawsuit. People are going to read this and think that this is actually the basis for the suit.

Certainly, a substance could give the same benefits from energy as other drinks while also causing greater risks due to the pharmacological properties of the drink. I don’t think it is hard to keep “both ideas on its head at once.” This comes up all the time with pharmaceutical drugs.

You might well be right in this particular case. I have no idea. But to suggest that the same efficacy for energy is mutually exclusive of a different safety profile – and they case flops on this inconsistency – is false.

I realize that putting up these posts in a drive by fashion does not mean that you don’t appreciate the issues are often more nuanced that the brief commentary would suggest. But, here, I think you are flat out dismissing in the commentary the possibility that it provides the same energy but causes a greater risk to consumers when that may not be so.

3 peter 01.21.13 at 1:01 pm

“possibility that it provides the same energy but causes a greater risk to consumers” ……and of course a Class Action Lawsuit is just the right vehicle to determine if this is the case. (There is of course the possibility that the lawsuit is the right vehicle to maximise income potential for lawyers. Quite how good it is in providing restitution to those affected is another matter)

4 Richard Nieporent 01.21.13 at 5:02 pm

It would appear that we are conflating two separate issues: 1) Whether or not Red Bull provides any more benefit that caffeine in coffee and 2) whether Red Bull is harmful. The lawsuit addresses only the first issue. It basically argues that if a cheaper product exists that give the same benefit, then you have defrauded the public.

An 8.4-ounce can of Red Bull costs at least $2.19 and contains 80 milligrams of caffeine, the lawsuit said. By comparison, a tablet of regular strength NoDoz costs about 30 cents and contains 100 mg of caffeine, it said. “Even a 12 ounce serving of Starbucks coffee costs $1.85 and would contain far more caffeine than a regular serving of Red Bull,” the lawsuit said.

So according to the lawsuit all similar products should cost the same amount. By that logic any “overpriced” product could be sued. For example, Monster cable brand charged up to 10 times the price for its cables that provided the same benefits as cheaper brands since both conformed to the required standards for those cables. I see a great case for some enterprising class action lawyer!

5 Ron Miller 01.21.13 at 10:06 pm

I was referring to the “gives you wings” part of it which you did not seriously mean. THAT mischaracterizes the lawsuit but I think people driving by might think it is some sort of Stella Awards where someone actually sued because they did not get wings. (In hindsight, I was being a little sensitive there; we can probably ignore the folks that thought the suit literally said that.)

To be clear, the intention of my comment was to point out that a product can have effects that are the same as another product but with a different set of risks. I’m not expert on this lawsuit and I have expressed my misgivings about these types of claims many times here.

Comments on this entry are closed.