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Ephedra At Fault In Suit

Aug 27, 2004 | AP

A jury has ordered a sports nutrition store to pay $4.1 million to a man who purchased a diet supplement containing the now-banned herbal stimulant ephedra and then suffered a debilitating stroke.

The case represents a rare instance of a retailer being found liable for selling a product containing ephedra.

Ephedrine supplements were widely used for weight loss and bodybuilding, but have been linked to more than 150 deaths, including that of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler.

The Food and Drug Administration banned all dietary supplements containing ephedrine alkaloids on April 12.

Hagen, who lives in Santa Margarita, suffered a stroke on Feb. 11, 2002, hours after taking the thermogenic weight management pill Dymetadrine Xtreme, which he purchased at Fox Nutrition in Los Angeles.

As a result of the stroke, Hagen now needs a wheelchair or a walker to get around, and he has trouble speaking because his vocal chords continually spasm, among other lingering health problems.

Fox Nutrition ended up becoming a defendant in the case as a result of California liability law, which states everyone along a chain of commerce becomes a defendant in a product liability suit.

Golden, Colo.-based manufacturer AST Sports Science went bankrupt and the courts dismissed the case against a Northridge-based distributor, DMA Industries, said an attorney who represented Fox Nutrition.

While the FDA ban on ephedra products had not yet been instituted at the time Hagen was taking the diet supplement, jurors decided the vitamin discount seller was partially responsible.

The 2-week-long trial ended Wednesday. Jurors initially returned a $6.9 million award, but then reduced it by 40 percent, citing that Hagen had also been using a prescription drug at the same time he took the ephedra-laced pill.

The jury also did not award damages to Hagen's wife, who had sought compensation for loss of consortium and other emotional hardship.

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