Our firm recently settled the last of many ephedra-related death cases that we have investigated over the past few years. This case involved the death of a 24-year old Alabama woman. She died while participating in correction officer training exercises after taking an ephedra- and caffeine-containing dietary supplement. We have previously written about other similar settlements in cases, the most notable of which was featured in People magazine and involved the death of a mother during an afternoon run after ingesting a Nutraquest ephedra product. That victim died while her children looked on.
In fact, Nutraquest, a company which made millions off its ephedra-based products, filed for bankruptcy in 2003 as a result of the numerous personal injury and wrongful death actions filed against it. That bankruptcy is only now – years later – being finalized with a plan to settle all of those cases for a total of $34.5 million. The creditors of the debtor are expected to approve the plan to resolve the bankruptcy in the next few days. Our firm played a large role in seeing through the resolution of these cases, due in large part to our readiness to try a case involving the death of an Army Master Sargeant who died during his daily basketball match after taking a Nutraquest ephedra-containing product.
A common denominator in each of these cases, regardless of the manufacturer or distributor, is the complete disregard for the safety of consumers. Not a single one of these companies adequately tested or researched the safety of their products. It was all about marketing and profits in the most recent case, which was brought against a contract manufacturer, distributor, and contract packager. Not only was the product not tested by any defendant, but each defendant was adamant that it had no responsibility regarding the safety of its ephedra-containing product. At least two of the defendants admitted they were aware of injuries and deaths that had been reported from people ingesting ephedra products.
It is frightening to learn that the regulation of food supplements, such as ephedra, is grossly inferior to that of pharmaceutical products, despite the fact that many herbal products have properties similar to pharmaceuticals. In fact, current regulations don’t even require food supplement manufacturers to test their products before marketing them. The public would be shocked to learn that the FDA has little control over the herbal supplement industry. Thus, many of those products pose potential health risks of a grave nature. In the case of ephedra products, the pharmaceutical properties of the ephedra alkaloids have been well known by scientists. Unfortunately, companies in the U.S. marketed those dangerous products to the detriment of consumers. It is amazing to learn that many of the companies were started by individuals with absolutely no training or experience in either medicine or science. In our last case, the main defendant was a pipe layer and yard worker who had no experience in herbal supplements. Nevertheless, this man started producing multi-vitamins and eventually the ephedra product that killed our client.
Ephedra-containing products have been banned by the FDA as a result of the numerous injuries and deaths resulting from the sale these products. Our firm is proud to have been a part of litigation that led to the ultimate ban of this extremely dangerous herb. Unfortunately, a lot of people died as a result of ingesting ephedra-containing supplements, including a beautiful, 24-year old young lady whose life – full of promise and happiness – was cut way too short. Roger Smith from our firm, along with David Miceli of Carrollton, Georgia, and Christy Crow of Union Springs, Alabama, represented the family and did an outstanding job.
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