By: Susan Harris - Staff Writer
Published: May 21, 2021

Four Loko Sued For Young Boy’s Death

Four Loko, the Chicago-based maker of the popular party drink, has been sued by the family of a 15-year-old boy who was hit by a car and killed.

The boy had become disoriented after drinking two of the alcoholic beverages. The family of John Donald Rupp III, who was known as Bo, contend in the lawsuit that Phusion Projects was “careless and negligent” for making a caffeinated, alcoholic beverage that “desensitizes users to the symptoms of intoxication and increases the potential for alcohol-related harm.”

In November 2010, a few weeks after Rupp’s death, Phusion Projects announced it would remove caffeine and other stimulants from its products. The Food and Drug Administration had warned Phusion Projects and three other companies that caffeine was an “unsafe food additive” when combined with alcohol.

The FDA said experts believe caffeine can mask some effects of intoxication and said peer-reviewed studies suggest that drinking beverages containing caffeine and alcohol is associated with risky behaviors. In an e-mailed statement, Phusion Projects said its products no longer contain caffeine, guarana or taurine and are for adults older than 21. The company said that Rupp’s accident, while tragic, speaks to “serious, societal concerns regarding the misuse of alcohol,” including underage drinking.

Rupp, who lived in a suburb of Washington, D.C., bought the beverages at a convenience store before attending a tailgate at a concert last fall, Simon said. Rupp reportedly drank two cans of Four Loko, after which concert venue staff called his mother to pick him up because the boy’s behavior was “erratic and agitated,” his mom, Karla Rupp, said. She drove him home and as she reached their neighborhood, Rupp took off on foot.

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