A federal jury awarded $4.6 million in a lawsuit against Metabolife International Inc., agreeing with the plaintiffs that the company sold an appetite suppressant in a defective condition.
plaintiffs, Annie McClain, Shirley Franks, Connie Thornburg and Wilmer Hudson, filed suit in 2001 after suffering serious health problems. McClain, Franks and Thornburg suffered strokes, while Hudson had a heart attack. They blamed Metabolife for their health problems.
The jury, after deliberating three days, found that Metabolife International sold the product Metabolife 356 in a condition that was unreasonably dangerous to consumers. The jury also found that the plaintiffs were injured.
The verdict followed a two-week trial. A lawyer for the company said it would appeal.
The jury awarded the plaintiffs, and in some instances their spouses, varying amounts of compensatory and punitive damages. Jurors found that Hudson was entitled to $7,500. Franks was awarded $2.35 million, with $150,000 of that amount on her husband’s behalf.
Robert Roden and David E. Oglesby, plaintiffs’ lawyers, applauded Tuesday’s verdict and said it should send a message that the product should be off the market.
Ed Bowron, a Metabolife lawyer, said in a statement that evidence showed that every plaintiff conceded that they did not read, much less follow, instructions and warnings on the Metabolife label, including the need to consult a doctor.
He said the company would appeal.
Numerous lawsuits across the country contend the company failed to warn consumers that Metabolife 356 contains ephedra, a popular herb commonly used for weight loss that also increases blood pressure and is blamed for causing heart attacks and strokes. The case in Birmingham was the first to go to trial.
The Justice Department is investigating whether Metabolife had lied about ephedra’s safety.