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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

The Importance of Autopsies and Scientific Data – a High Profile Example from The Suit Against

Science and law intersections sometimes arise in terrible places, but the science remains key. Consider, for example, the new well-known litigation arising out of the recent death of a 14 year old girl, Anna Fournier, with known heart issues and perhaps other unknown issues. The litigation arises because she is said to have consumed two energy drinks during the prior 24 hours, and those drinks are alleged to have caused her death.

When children die, "why" becomes a huge question for distraught parents and friends. Many wonder if "something" could or should have been done somewhere in advance, to avoid the death, or wonder if someone can see a particular reason why that particular day resulted in the death. Answering why questions usually is not easy. Better answers often (if not always) require data. Scientific data. Valid data. The right data. And, preferably data taken by experts, quickly, before cellular level decay starts occurring.

The importance of facts and data is on display in the litigation and the related battle for control of media and popular opinion. The most developments are covered in a cogent article from a food and beverage publication. In short, the beverage maker (Monster) is bringing out experts who are said to have been through the available data. As the story line goes, the experts say they see significant pre-existing heart problems in Ms. Fournier, but no harm caused by the energy drinks. Counsel for the plaintiff sees it differently, according to the article. And, a medical examiner made a "finding" regarding "caffeine toxicity." "According to the autopsy report and death certificate [alleges the complaint], the cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity complicating mitral valve regurgitation in the setting Ehlers–Danlos syndrome.”

Conclusion? Scientific facts matter. When bad things happen, the facts should be gathered, quickly and well, preferably by experts if time permits, and preferably through cooperative effort by all sides. But when only the plaintiff knows suit will or may be filed, the plaintiff should obtain and preserve evidence all along.

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