Four Loko Lawsuits


When The New York Times reported that a certain caffeinated malt beverage "has been blamed" for making a 20-year-old Florida college student shoot himself in the head, you knew a lawsuit could not be far behind. Sure enough, ABC News reports that Joe and Vicki Keiran have sued Phusion Projects, the Chicago-based manufacturer of Four Loko, over the September 17 death of their son, Jason, a Florida State sophomore who "picked up a friend's gun after partying with his roommates for 30 hours straight."

During that period, according to ABC, Jason Keiran drank "at least three cans" of Four Loko, the alcohol equivalent of 14 bottles of beer and the caffeine equivalent of three cups of coffee. The Tallahassee Democrat, which says Keiran drank six cans of Four Loko over a 24-hour period, reports that his blood alcohol concentration at the time of his death was 0.28 percent. Staying up for 30 hours straight surely did not help his mental state. According to the Keirans' attorney, paraphrasing Jason's friends, "He started to act crazy. He pointed the gun at his head and everyone else. He said I realize I'm freaking you guys out; take the gun away from me." ABC adds that "his friends who witnessed the tragedy say it was an accident and his parents say he would never have taken his own life on purpose." All of which may well be true, but that does not mean Four Loko killed him.

Still, the Keirans are more sympathetic than Janice Rivera, a 20-year-old Floridian who sued Phusion Projects after losing her hand in a car crash last August. By her own account, she watched her 20-year-old friend Danielle Joseph (whom she is also suing) down "almost four" 23.5-ounce cans of Four Loko, which has a clearly labeled alcohol content of 12 percent, but still thought Joseph was OK to drive because she did not seem all that drunk.

Look for my column tomorrow about the moral panic behind the FDA's Four Loko ban.