Does Red Bull really give you wings?

An Energy Drink is a drink which contains stimulant compounds. It usually contains caffeine and sugar and is believed to help in mental and physical stimulation. One of such energy drinks which we all have heard is Red Bull which is sold in most places throughout the world. It was started in 1987 by an Austrian company named Red Bull GmbH. It is one of the most sold energy drink throughout the world. According to the statistics of 2019, Red Bull sold 7.5 billion cans in that particular year.

History

During 1976, Thailand had one of those energy drinks named “Krating Daeng” which was introduced by a Thai businessman and investor, Chaleo Yoovidhya. On 1982, when Dietrich Mateschitz was in a visit to Thailand, he noticed that the drink was very famous in Thailand and decided to meet Chaleo. He then came back to Austria and in 1984, Mateschitz co-founded Red Bull GmbH with Yoovidhya and turned it into an international brand. The product was launched in 1987 and by 2014 it reached almost every corner of the world including German, UK, USA and China.

Court Cases against Red Bull

Energy drinks have been associated with health risks, such as masking the effects of intoxication when consumed with alcohol and excessive or repeated consumption can lead to cardiac and psychiatric conditions.[1] There have been several court cases regarding the risks associated with energy drinks. In a 2013 court case of Terry vs. Red Bull[2], a 33 old year man died of a heart attack after consuming Red Bull in between a basketball game. The case was settled for an undisclosed amount of money between the family of deceased and Red Bull.

On August 2014, another lawsuit was filed against Red Bull in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia over the death of William Jacob Wade. 44-year-old Jacob Wade suffered an aortic dissection after consuming Red Bull and his mother filed a suit against Red Bull. The court case was later dismissed.[3]

In both of these cases, Red Bull was sued for its design defect, failure to warn and malicious production of a beverage with “dangerous levels of caffeine and other stimulants” causing wrongful death.[4] All of the lawsuits filed against Red Bull are similar which revolve around overexposure to caffeine and other substances in the drink.

Careathers v. Red Bull

On January 16, 2013, a lawsuit was filed against Red Bull Company in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York by plaintiff Benjamin Careathers, who was a longtime consumer of Red Bull beverages.

Later on February 27, 2013, Plaintiffs Wolf and Almaraz also filed their class action complaint in the Central District of California.

In these both the cases, the plaintiffs complained that Red Bull had established its superiority over other less expensive caffeine products like coffee or caffeine pills on their official website as well as in advertisements and marketing phase. The applicants argued that these claims of Red Bull being superior to other caffeine products lacks reliable scientific evidence, credibility and competency. One of the plaintiff, Careathers, had been drinking the beverage for 10 years and he experienced no boost in his mental or physical performance as stated by Red Bull in their advertisements. The plaintiffs believed that Red Bull had been fooling people by making false advertisements about improving performance, endurance, concentration and reaction via television commercials, internet websites and postings, blast emails, radio media, blogs, video news releases, advertisements, and the packaging of Red Bull energy drinks. The plaintiffs also stated that these false promises about Red Bull’s ability to boost energy and endurance are intended to induce consumers into purchasing and/or paying a price “premium” for its beverages.[5]

The court hearing took place the morning of 1 May 2015 in an attempt to determine approval for the settlement and on August 2014, Red Bull agreed to pay more than $13 million to settle this lawsuit. Anyone who at least bought one Red Bull beverage dating back to Jan. 1, 2002 would get $10 or 15$ cash reimbursement. Also Red Bull has removed its false advertisements and its marketing now includes potential health risks and warnings for consumers. In addition to making changes on its website post-lawsuit, Red Bull also made changes to its can labels, beefing up its warnings, and removing the allegedly deceptive functional benefit claims described above from its cans, and replaced them with a more generic lifestyle statement.[6]

Red Bull settled the lawsuit to avoid the cost and distraction of litigation. However, Red Bull maintains that its marketing and labelling have always been truthful and accurate and denies any wrongdoing or liability[7] and is ready to defend its claims if the lawsuit further proceeds.

Red Bull didn’t give me Wings

Since 1997, the Red Bull company slogan is “Red Bull gives you wings”. There are numerous news and articles on a piece of fake news that Red Bull lost a $13 million lawsuit after promising that its customers would grow wings. These rumours arose from the aforementioned case. When Red Bull was willing to pay $13 million, some journalists and bloggers posted fake news that the lawsuit was about Red Bull drinkers not being able to grow wings. So basically the whole news of Red Bull being sued for not being able to provide the customer with wings, as mentioned in their advertising slogan, is false and baseless.

Conclusion

Red Bull is one of the largest selling energy drinks throughout the world. However, due to some combination of ingredients present in it and its constant consumption, some scientists believe that energy drinks like these could harm your body. Due to this Red Bull has faced many civil lawsuits of false advertising and not marketing about its consumption risks and warnings. Also, the slogan “Red Bull gives you wings” is not practical and rather abstract. So, there is no chance of Red Bull being sued for not providing you with wings even after its regular consumption.


[1] Fabian Sanchis Gomar, Helios Pareja-Galeano, Gianfranco Cervellin, Giuseppe Lippi, Conrad P. Earnest, “Energy drink overconsumption in adolescents: implications for arrhythmias and other cardiovascular events” 2015, available at https://www.onlinecjc.ca/article/S0828-282X(14)01667-5/fulltext.

[2] Terry v. Red Bull N. Am., Inc., No. 506504/2013 (N.Y. Sup. Ct., Kings County. Oct. 24, 2013).

[3] Lemley v. Red Bull N. Am., Inc., No. 4:16-CV-080 (S.D. Ga. Dec. 9, 2016).

[4] “Wrongful death suit filed against Red Bull” available at https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=8033ce4c-5125-4e33-85f1-84ef3a36da46

[5] Careathers v. Red Bull GmbH, et al., No. 13 Civ. 0369 (KPF).

[6] Careathers v. Red Bull GmbH, et al., No. 13 Civ. 0369 (KPF).

[7] Laura O’Reilly, ” Red Bull Does (Not) Give You Wings”, 2014, available at https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/red-bulls-wings/

Ashutosh Pandey from National Law College, Nepal


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