Lawsuit: Red Bull Doesn’t Give You Wings

For all its heroic marketing, Red Bull provides no more energy than a cup of coffee or a caffeine pill, a recent lawsuit argues.

Filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the lawsuit claims that the energy drink company uses deceptive marketing to justify its premium pricing even though its products offer a strong but not superior boost of energy. The lead plaintiff is Benjamin Careathers of the Bronx, N.Y., who has been drinking Red Bull products since 2002.

“Defendants are able to charge and get a substantial premium for their products over readily available and much lower priced sources of caffeine that provide the same or substantially similar results,” the lawsuit said.

According to its website, Reb Bull sold 4.6 billion cans in 2011 and has, to date, sold 35 billion cans.

The lawsuit contends that an 8.4 oz. can of Red Bull retails for at least $2.19 and contains 80 milligrams of caffeine, while a caplet of regular strength NoDoz costs 30 cents and contains 100 milligrams of caffeine. Moreover, a 12 oz. serving of Starbucks coffee costs $1.85 and contains far more caffeine than a serving of Red Bull, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, which cited recent reports from Nutrition Reviews, a scientific journal, and The New York Times, seeks an injunction forcing Red Bull to cease advertising false benefits and to remedy “any erroneous impression consumers may have derived concerning the nature, characteristics, or qualities of Red Bull.” The suit also requests restitution of all funds the company acquired from the plaintiffs by unlawful means.

Red Bull is not the only energy drink maker facing legal woes. In October, Monster Energy was hit with a lawsuit alleging that Monster’s high caffeine content caused the death of a 14-year-old girl last December.

Also in October, a Texas man, Adam Mirabella, filed a lawsuit against Vital Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the makers of VPX Redline, which contains 316 milligrams of caffeine anhydrous in an 8 oz. bottle. Mirabella claimed that after drinking one serving of Redline, his heart began racing, “he suffered extreme chest pain that felt like a heart attack, he lost sensation in his hands, and he had extreme nausea.”

But there has been something of a change in tenor of the suits: whereas previous lawsuits dealt with potential physical harm that may come from consumption, the new suits deal with marketing claims.