June 25, 2004 - Jury awards $7.4 million in ephedra suit
A jury awarded $7.4 million to a woman who suffered brain damage in a stroke two years ago after taking a diet supplement that contained the now-banned herbal stimulant ephedra. Rhea McAllister was awarded $2.4 million in actual damages and $5 million in punitive damages even though the jury found her to be 30 percent liable for failing to tell her doctor that she was using ephedra when she first complained of dizziness and other symptoms.
The jury found that San Diego-based marketer Metabolife International acted maliciously when it falsely told state and federal regulators that its Metabolife supplement had no adverse effects and that the company had comprehensive safety monitoring procedures.
Ephedra was once widely used for weight loss and bodybuilding, with industry groups claiming at least 12 million users. The amphetamine-like stimulant has now been linked to 155 deaths, including that of Baltimore Orioles pitching prospect Steve Bechler.
Metabolife attorneys had argued that McAllister's problems might have been caused by oral contraceptives and that a doctor had pronounced her recovered from her injuries.
The suit was one of the first to be tried among the mounting number of cases since the ban.