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'Four Loko' insurer not obligated to defend dangerous product

The name of the beverage is 'Four Loko' for a reason: It previously contained a lethal mix of caffeine, alcohol, taurine and guarana. Scores of Illinois students were seduced by the beverage, first created in 2005 by two Midwestern natives. Now, the company that produces the beverage - which has since had caffeine removed from its recipe - will not benefit from insurance protection in connection with several fatal accident allegations. Victims and their relatives allege that this dangerous product led to a variety of personal injuries and deaths. Current claims against the company include negligent manufacture, along with failure to warn, wrongful death, design defects and others.

A mid-December ruling has determined that the insurance company providing general liability coverage for the drink-maker is not obligated to defend against these claims. The company had only purchased general commercial liability products instead of investing in those related to alcoholic beverage products. The judge decided that the insurers are exempt from participating in these suits, even though the drink manufacturer argued that the coverage for "stimulant liability" should have sufficed.

The civil claims come after a set of horrifying incidents that caused serious injury and death among young Four Loko consumers. One buyer drank so much of the beverage that he could not sleep for 30 hours. He and his friends then decided to go shooting. That young man shot himself accidentally and died. Other customers have suffered psychotic breaks as a result of consuming the beverage, with one man running out onto a busy highway and dying in a car accident. Still others have experienced heart troubles because of the drink.

The negligent manufacturer of this product should have anticipated the legal and health problems that would result from the potent mixture of substances in the dangerous product. Victims of the Four Loko phenomenon deserve financial compensation for their pain and suffering, emotional distress and personal injury, among other civil claims.

Source: The State Bar of Wisconsin, "No Duty to Defend Maker of Caffeine-Alcohol Drink, Federal Appeals Court Says" Joe Forward, Dec. 17, 2013

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