The death of a 14-year-old girl who has become the poster child for banning caffeine-fueled energy drinks can't be blamed on the beverages, lawyers for the Monster Beverage Corp. said Monday.
Dan Callahan, a lawyer for Monster, said no blood tests were conducted to prove that Anais Fournier actually died of caffeine toxicity after drinking two 24-ounce Monster drinks in two days, and the girl had several preexisting conditions that predisposed her to the sudden cardiac arrhythmia that killed her in December 2011.
The company faces a wrongful death lawsuit filed last fall by the Maryland girl's parents, Wendy Crossland and Richard Fournier.
Doctors, coroners and other experts hired by Monster who analyzed the girl's medical records found "no connection" between Fournier's death and the drinks, Callahan said.
"There was no medical, scientific or factual evidence to support the medical examiner's conclusion of caffeine toxicity," Callahan said in a briefing with reporters Monday.
Bruce Goldfarb, a spokesman for the Maryland office of the chief medical examiner, Dr. David Fowler, said he couldn't comment because of the pending lawsuit. Dr. Ana Rubio conducted the autopsy, Goldfarb said.
Monster lawyers also said the firm's discovery process had found that Fournier drank coffee regularly and frequented Starbucks shops.
The autopsy report had concluded that Fournier died of "cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity complicating mitral value regurgitation in the setting of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome," the lawsuit says. Fournier had been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a connective tissue disease that can affect the heart.
At least 18 deaths and 150 injuries have been mentioned in connection with several brands of energy drinks since 2004, according to Food and Drug Administration records. However, those are only voluntary reports submitted by doctors, consumers and others and they have not been investigated, the FDA notes.
The Chicago City Council is holding a hearing on Tuesday on Alderman Edward Burke's proposal to ban energy drinks because he says they may post a hazard to health. Burke has specifically cited Fournier's death in his call to stop sales of the drinks including Monster, Red Bull, Full Throttle and 5-Hour Energy drinks. Burke did not immediately respond to NBC News questions about whether he would continue to call for the ban.
Monster has defended the safety of its products, noting that a 24-ounce energy drink contains 240 milligram of caffeine, compared with about 330 milligrams in a 16-ounce cup of Starbucks coffee.