Maker of Four Loko Sued for Fraud Again

Another lawsuit has been filed against Phusion Projects, LLC, maker of Four Loko alcoholic beverages, Crain's reported March 9.

The new lawsuit, which is aiming for class-action status, was filed March 4 in the Southern District Court of California. It claims that Four Loko misled its customers about the potency of its caffeinated alcoholic beverages by using fruit flavors, colorful packaging, and clever shelf placement in stores to suggest they were similar to non-alcoholic beverages.

The original Four Loko came in a 23.5-ounce can with a caffeine and guarana (another stimulant) and the alcohol equivalent of three to four beers. Launched in 2005, the drink – linked to several deaths and incidents of severe alcohol poisoning — became known as “blackout in a can.”

It was banned in multiple cities and states before a warning by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Nov. 2010 forced Phusion Projects to reformulate the drink without caffeine.

“Nothing in the advertising, labeling, packaging, marketing, promotion and selling of Four Loko” warned the plaintiff, Jacqueline Richardson, of “the particular dangers of drinking a caffeinated beverage with high alcoholic content,” and she was “misled by defendant into purchasing and paying for a dangerous product that was not what it was represented to be,” her complaint said.

“We have always disclosed the contents of all of our products and we did not make any misrepresentations about our products,” the company replied, adding that the suit, which seeks a jury trial and $5 million in damages, is “meritless.”

Consumers have sued Phusion Projects at least three other times since 2010. Crain's said two of the other lawsuits also sought class-action status, and that all four alleged “fraud, injury, or death.”

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