Dismissal of energy drink company’s suit to block City Attorney Herrera’s consumer protection case is upheld by 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
SAN FRANCISCO (May 18, 2017)—A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court decision to dismiss Monster’s Beverages Corp.’s lawsuit against San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, dealing yet another setback to the energy drink manufacturer’s bid to block Herrera from moving forward with his consumer protection case in state court. The May 17 decision agreed with arguments made by Deputy City Attorney Tara Steeley at a hearing in April that California courts have jurisdiction to hear such cases, and that the U.S. District Court properly dismissed Monster’s federal suit. Monster, the nation’s largest energy drink manufacturer, pre-emptively sued Herrera after learning of the city attorney’s investigation into the company’s alleged violations of California law.
“Monster’s lawsuit was a tactical ploy aimed at preventing my office from investigating its reprehensible marketing tactics, which target children despite the known health risks that their highly-caffeinated energy drinks pose to youth,” Herrera said. “I am grateful that the panel upheld the district court’s decision to dismiss the company’s lawsuit. Monster continues to market its products irresponsibly, and I look forward to proceeding with our consumer protection case to force this company to comply with state law.”
The Ninth Circuit panel upheld the Dec. 16, 2013 district court ruling by Judge Virginia A. Phillips that cleared the way for Herrera’s state court consumer protection action to proceed. Herrera’s state case alleges that the Corona, Calif.-based Monster Beverage violated state law by targeting youth—including children as young as six-years-old—in its marketing of products that pediatric studies show “may lead to significant morbidity in adolescents.” A representative article in Pediatrics in Review concluded that the particular health risks that highly-caffeinated, sweetened energy drinks pose to youth derive from “cardiovascular effects, withdrawal symptoms, mixing with alcohol, association with substance dependence.” (Source: Blankson et al., Energy Drinks: What Teenagers (and Their Doctors) Should Know, Pediatrics in Review, 2013;34;55.)
The National Collegiate Athletic Association, which represents more than 400,000 student-athletes at more than 1,000 North American colleges and universities, currently prohibits its member institutions from distributing caffeinated energy drinks to student-athletes. The NCAA has concluded that energy drinks “pose a health and safety risk for student-athletes,” and “can have adverse health consequences if consumed before or during strenuous exercise.” Pediatric studies have similarly found that the cardiovascular effects “of heavy caffeine use can be a significant source of morbidity in athletes,” citing new-onset seizures, hypertension, heart palpitations, and diuretic effects that can “lead to dehydration in athletes who do not drink enough fluids to compensate.”
Monster’s still-dismissed federal action is: Monster Beverage Corporation v. Dennis Herrera, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, 13-57128 (originally filed in U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Eastern Division, CV‐13‐00786, on April 29, 2013). Herrera’s state lawsuit is: People of the State of California v. Monster Beverage Corporation, San Francisco Superior Court No. CGC‐13‐531161, filed May 6, 2013.
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