Young Athlete Sues Panera after Charged Lemonade Causes ‘Permanent Cardiac Injuries’

By: Lauren Fokas | Published: Jan 28, 2024

When most people think of Panera Bread, they think of the restaurant’s delicious coffee or bread bowls, but it’s Panera’s caffeinated lemonades that are on everyone’s mind at the moment.

A woman from Greenville, Rhode Island, recently filed a suit against Panera, claiming that its charged lemonade directly caused “permanent cardiac injuries. And she’s not the only one who was allegedly hurt by the drink. Two other customers have reportedly died.

Lauren Skerritt’s Story

Lauren Skerritt is a 28-year-old occupational therapist who enjoys spending her free time playing sports, exercising, and even participating in competitive races. 

Lauren Skerritt and her husband after participating in a race

Source: @LEX18News/X

Skerritt and her husband were thinking of starting their family last year when, suddenly, Lauren found herself in the hospital for heart palpitations. 

Lauren Had Never Had this Problem Before

As an avid athlete in college and throughout her 20s, Lauren had always considered herself a healthy person. And she certainly never had any episodes of heart palpitations before. 

Lauren Skerritt on her college soccer team at Bowdoin

Source: Bowdoin Athletics

But after going to the hospital, she found out that the heart palpitations were just the beginning of her problems. 

Skerritt Was Moved Immediately to Critical Care

Upon her arrival to the hospital, Skerritt was moved to critical care almost immediately as the medical staff noted that her heart rate was in the 190s. 

Person in the hospital with a heart rate machine in the foreground

Source: Freepik

After stabilizing and being released, Skerritt was told she would have to return to the hospital for testing and treatment. However, they found that the young athlete showed no signs of any heart disease. 

Panera’s Charged Lemonade May Be to Blame

Skerritt realized that shortly before the first episode, she had consumed two and a half of Panera’s charged lemonades, and that the caffeinated drink may have something to do with her sudden health issues. 

Dispensers for Charged Lemonade, a caffeinated lemonade drink, at Panera Bread, Walnut Creek, California

Source: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

After consulting with her doctors, Skerritt decided to take her story public and is filing a lawsuit against Panera Bread for selling customers such a dangerous product.

What Is Panera’s Charged Lemonade?

The product in question, Panera’s Charged Lemonade, is essentially a caffeinated lemon drink that the brand claims is “Plant-based and clean with as much caffeine as our Dark Roast coffee.”

Dispensers for Charged Lemonade, a caffeinated lemonade drink, at Panera Bread, Walnut Creek, California

Source: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

However, this information is slightly misleading as Panera’s lemonades are served in much larger portions than their coffees. A typical 8 ounce cup of coffee might have about 100 milligrams of caffeine, and a 30 ounce cup of the charged lemonade has 389 milligrams of caffeine. So, technically, that means they have about the same amount of caffeine per fluid ounce. 


Some People Would Have Two Cups of Coffee

Some people can comfortably drink two cups of coffee, which usually adds up to 24 ounces at the most. This would mean 300 milligrams of caffeine total. 

Dispensers for Charged Lemonade, a caffeinated lemonade drink, at Panera Bread, Walnut Creek, California

Source: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

However, two of Panera’s charged lemonades add up to between 520 and 778 milligrams of coffee: more than twice what two coffees would provide. So, it’s quite clear why this marketing is confusing to its customers. 


Skerritt Claims She’s Experiencing Lasting Effects from Drinking the Charged Lemonade

Skerritt is still on medication to regulate her heart rate and is claiming that the two charged lemonades she drank didn’t just cause heart palpitations, but have also resulted in permanent conditions. 

Woman stretching before exercising outside

Source: Freepik

Lauren used to be extremely active, but now, she says she cannot exercise in the same way because she is experiencing shortness of breath, weakness, and brain fog that makes it hard to simply work and socialize.


This Isn’t the First Time Panera’s Charged Lemonades Have Been Called Out as Dangerous

Sadly, this is not the first time that Panera’s charged lemonades have reportedly caused extreme damage to a customer. In fact, two people actually died shortly after consuming the caffeinated beverage.

Sarah Katz, 21-year-old who passed away from cardiac arrest after drinking a Panera charged lemonade

Source: @RonBarras/Facebook

Dennis Brown passed away on October 9th after drinking three, and 21-year-old Sarah Katz died in September 2022 just after consuming one of the charged lemonades. While both of these people did have existing conditions, many are arguing that a lemonade should never lead to death, no matter what conditions one might already have. 


These Families Are Fighting Back

The families of Dennis Brown and Sarah Katz, as well as Lauren Skerritt herself, have decided to take action and file a complaint against Panera and its dangerous drinks. 

Exterior of a Panera Bread restaurant

Source: Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

Elizabeth Crawford, the attorney who is representing all three plaintiffs, called the product “Panera’s toxic super energy drink” in a recent statement. 


What Panera Has to Say About the Charged Lemonade Suit

Panera hasn’t directly responded to Crawford’s suit against them and their allegedly dangerously charged lemonades. However, the company did release a public statement when Sarah Katz passed away in 2022. 

An image of the sign for Panera Bread at a restaurant in Hicksville, New York

Source: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

At the time, they said, “We were very saddened to learn this morning about the tragic passing of Sarah Katz, and our hearts go out to her family. At Panera, we strongly believe in transparency around our ingredients. We will work quickly to thoroughly investigate this matter.”


Panera Is Still Selling Its Charged Lemonades

Panera has still not taken its caffeinated lemonade off its menu, so it continues to be purchased and consumed all over the country.

A Panera Bread worker pours a charged lemonade at a Panera Bread restaurant

Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

What will happen next depends on the lawsuit, of course, but also on how Panera decides to handle the situation. At the bare minimum, many hope the restaurant chain will at least change its marketing and label the charged lemonade as an energy drink, not as an equivalent to a cup of coffee.