Four Loko Lawsuit: Parents Claim Energy Drink Killed Son

A Florida family is suing the makers of a energy drink in their son's death.

November 16, 2010, 3:18 AM

Nov. 16, 2010— -- A Florida family is suing the makers of a popular energy drink in connection with their son's death.

Joe and Vicki Keiran say their 20-year-old son Jason became intoxicated and wired after drinking at least three cans of the energy drink Four Loko -- the alcohol equivalent of 18 light beers and 6 cups of coffee.

Each fruit punch-flavored 23.5 ounce can has about 2.82 ounces of alcohol and about 156 milligrams of caffeine.

The Keirans believe the drink caused Jason to become so manic and erratic, that he accidentally shot himself.

The family's attorney, Don Van Dingenen, says the Florida State sophomore picked up a friend's gun after partying with his roommates for 30 hours straight on Sept. 17.

"They say 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," Van Dingenen said.

Jason's parents believe there was more to the story.

"I just miss him more and more everyday I wish he would e-mail me I wish he would call me…I wish he was coming home for Thanksgiving," said Jason's mother Vicki.

His father said the tragedy is a parent's worst fear.

"We lived for our kids so they could get on their way in life," he said.

The maker of Four Loko had no comment on the Kieran's lawsuit, saying they haven't reviewed it.

But the company sent a letter to government regulators that said they "don't agree with the notion that mixing caffeine and alcohol is inherently unsafe."

The manufacturers also pointed out there are 40 other similar beverages on the market.

"We welcome the opportunity to have a discussion with you about working together to create uniform, industrywide standards," the company said.

The medical examiner's office has not ruled on whether Jason Kiernan's death was an accidental shooting or suicide.

However, 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.

Energy Drink Backlash

Today, there's a growing backlash against energy drinks that mix caffeine and alcohol.

The drinks are gaining in popularity on college campuses but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says drinkers who consume alcohol mixed with caffeine are "three times more likely to binge drink than those who drink straight alcohol."

Police say dozens of students have been hospitalized including nine from Central Washington University who became violently ill at a party.

Four states have now banned the drinks and next month New York's beer distributors will stop selling them.

"It's almost a death wish disguised as an energy drink," said New York Senator Charles Schumer.

Four Loko says their product is for adults and condemns the underage use and abuse of alcohol.

The Kieran's say society has turned a blind eye to that in allowing kids to buy liquor underage and the these drinks have taken it to a level that is "totally unacceptable" and "it's a like wolf in sheep's clothing."

Vicki Keiran hopes by filing the lawsuit it will prevent others from enduring the same pain and "so another mother doesn't have to sit here so she doesn't have to go through what I went through."