NYT Runs Article About Potential Energy Drink SLAPP

Mar 22, 13

A new article from the New York Times discusses a potential SLAPP by Monster Beverage against a nutritionist who published a newsletter for young children calling energy drinks dangerous.

“…Monster Beverage also claimed recently that the March issue of a newsletter sent to elementary school students and their parents contained defamatory statements that had “materially damaged Monster and its well-known brand.” It objected to several statements in the newsletter, Build Healthy Kids, including one that said children had died from energy drinks and should “never drink” them.

In a letter dated March 4, the company demanded that Deborah Kennedy, a nutritionist who publishes the newsletter, retract and correct the statements within five days or face a lawsuit.

Ms. Kennedy, who lives in Connecticut, said in an interview that she was stunned by the threat, in part because the newsletter never mentioned Monster Energy or any other product by name, but focused instead on the need for children to cut down on sugar-laden beverages.

In response, she called on one of Connecticut’s United States senators, Richard Blumenthal, who is a critic of the energy drink industry. Mr. Blumenthal’s office contacted Monster, which agreed to withhold legal action pending a meeting with Ms. Kennedy.

Ms. Kennedy, who holds a doctorate in nutrition, said she thought the audience for her newsletter, children from kindergarten through fifth grade, should not consume energy drinks. “They are going after me for reaching that segment, and it boggles my mind,” she said.

Mr. Sitrick, the Monster spokesman, said that the 7-year-old son of a Monster employee had received the newsletter at his school and was upset by it. The boy showed it to his father, who brought it to the attention of a company lawyer.

“No child, much less a 7-year-old, should be falsely informed that his or her father’s employer is a child killer, especially since there are no facts to support the allegation,” Mr. Sitrick said. He added that Ms. Kennedy had yet to meet with a lawyer for Monster.

Last week, Senator Blumenthal and two other Democratic lawmakers, Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Representative Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, sent a letter to Monster Beverage urging it to apologize for the tone of its letter to Ms. Kennedy and asking whether the company had threatened others with lawsuits.

Mr. Sitrick said the company was still reviewing the letter but continued to believe that Ms. Kennedy’s statements were defamatory.”

Read the full article from the New York Times here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/20/business/in-a-new-aisle-energy-drinks-sidestep-rules.html?pagewanted=all

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