(CN) - The manufacturer of 5-Hour Energy drinks must face claims that its product made a New Jersey man fall down a flight of stairs, giving him brain bleed and seizures, a federal judge ruled.
Soon after Jules Rossi drank a 5-Hour Energy drink in February 2011, he lost consciousness, fell down a flight of stairs, and suffered a subarachnoid brain bleed, according to the complaint.
Rossi claims that ingredients in 5-Hour Energy had dehydrated him, and that the product's packaging does not adequately warn consumers of the risk.
The fall led to seizures and other mental and physical problems, Rossi claims.
He and his wife Robin sued the supplement's manufacturers, Innovation Ventures LLC dba Living Essentials, its owner, Manoj Bhargava, and Bio Clinical Development Inc.
Though an FDA report alerted the defendants to the substantial medical risks of energy drinks, they kept selling 5-Hour Energy drinks without regard for consumer safety, Rossi claims.
The amended complaint, filed on July 8, 2013, sought punitive damages for product liability and strict liability, negligence, piercing the corporate veil, civil RICO violations, violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, and loss of consortium for Rossi's wife.
Innovation moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim or to strike the FDA report, and Bio Clinical and Bhargava for lack of personal jurisdiction.
U.S. District Judge Joel Pisano granted Bio Clinical and Bhargava's motion last week.
"Assuming plaintiff's allegations are true that defendant Bhargava designed, manufactured, produced, tested, sold, or marketed 5-Hour Energy, plaintiff fails to establish that any of these actions by defendant Bhargava were conducted in New Jersey or purposely directed at New Jersey," Pisano wrote. "Bhargava is not a resident of New Jersey, does not own or possess any real property in New Jersey, and does not perform any work or render any services in New Jersey."
Rossi failed to show that personal jurisdiction exists over Bio Clinical (BCD), a Michigan corporation not registered to do business in New Jersey, the ruling states.
"To the extent that BCD manufactures, produces, designs, advertises and/or sells 5-Hour Energy, it does not do any of these activities in New Jersey, or otherwise conduct any business or maintain any contacts in New Jersey," Pisano wrote. "Similarly, plaintiff's claim(s) do not arise from or relate to any conduct by defendant BCD that is purposely directed at New Jersey."
The judge partially denied Innovation's motion to dismiss.
"Plaintiff has alleged that the Innovation defendants manufactured 5-Hour Energy, that plaintiff was a reasonably foreseeable user of the product, that plaintiff's injury was proximately caused by the defective product, and that 5-Hour Energy was defective because it was not accompanied by a proper warning label," Pisano wrote. "Accordingly, plaintiff's complaint alleges sufficient facts to state a claim for relief under the PLA [New Jersey Products Liability Act] and the Innovation defendants' motion to dismiss this claim is denied, without prejudice."
Though Rossi's remaining state law claims failed, the court refused to dismiss Mrs. Rossi's loss of consortium claim or strike the FDA report.
"Similar products that contain similar ingredients may be relevant in determining whether a defendant had knowledge of potential risks associated with its product," Pisano wrote. "Further, adverse event reports contained in Exhibit A involving 5-Hour Energy list 'loss of consciousness,' which is precisely what plaintiff experienced here. As such, the court finds that, at this stage of the litigation, Exhibit A is not immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous, as it does have a possible relation to the controversy and will not confuse allegations in the case."
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