A physician testifying in a civil case brought by a young man against Corona-based Monster Energy Corp. said Wednesday he had no doubt that one of the company’s 16-ounce drinks instigated the near-fatal heart attack suffered by the plaintiff, though the witness acknowledged that other factors likely also played a part.
Dr. Anjan Shah, a pediatric cardiologist from the Oklahoma University School of Medicine, was among the last witnesses called by the plaintiff’s attorneys in the now weeklong trial, and despite intense cross-examination, the doctor stuck by his initial expert opinion that Cody Dean Bledsoe of Arlington, Texas, suffered a life-threatening cardiac arrest after downing a Monster Green Drink in 2013.
“Individual ingredients in the drink, by themselves, may have no effect,” Shah testified. “But put together in this combination, they could cause the (cardiac) event.”
When asked point-blank by one of Bledsoe’s attorneys whether the doctor believed the then-18-year-old college freshman’s heart seized because of the energy drink he’d consumed, Shah answered, “Absolutely.”
Monster’s attorneys challenged Shah’s findings, noting that the pediatrician examined Bledsoe only one time, more than two years after the heart attack, relying largely on other doctors’ notes and anecdotal reports from the young man and his family to form an opinion.
The defense pressed Shah to conclusively state whether the ingredients in the 16-ounce energy drink — including taurine, guarana and caffeine — were of sufficient quantity to induce an “arrhythmogenic” episode, such as the one the plaintiff experienced.
“It depends on the individual patient to determine how much is too much,” the doctor replied.
Shah conceded that he had no idea whether Bledsoe had been consuming Monster drinks in the 24-hour period prior to his heart attack. The witness further stated that it was very likely that a lack of sleep and pressure preparing for an exam contributed to significant stress with which the plaintiff was dealing when his heart seized.
“Cody was studying. He had lots of things going on,” Shah testified. “There were environmental risk factors.”
According to the doctor, the fact that Bledsoe had been regularly consuming Monster beverages for years provided some conditioning of his cardiovascular system, but he stopped short of saying the behavior definitely heightened his risk of myocardial infarction.
According to the plaintiffs, the young man collapsed in his family home in the predawn hours of Jan. 4, 2013. His brother initiated CPR when he saw his sibling was not breathing. The young man was taken to a hospital and eventually stabilized, with no signs of permanent heart damage.
The plaintiffs are seeking an unspecified amount in compensatory and punitive damages and believe Monster should be required to post information about the potential health risks associated with its drinks.
Bledsoe’s defense team has pointed out that Monster has been sued multiple times, but on each occasion, the company has sorted out its legal woes without defending its products before a jury.
Monster has declined to comment on the case.
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