Jury adds $12 million in punitive damages in diet drug lawsuit

Posted: Thursday, February 08, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A Superior Court jury added $12 million in punitive damages Wednesday to a million dollar award won by an Anchorage woman against a diet drug maker.

The court ordered E'ola Products Inc. to pay a total of $13.2 million to Rosalie Talbert, who suffered a stroke in 1995, which her doctors blamed on her use of Amp II Pro drops, a liquid dietary herbal supplement made by E'ola Products.

Doctors said the supplement contained ephedrine, an amphetamine-like stimulant.

Talbert called the verdict overwhelming. Talbert told KTUU-TV that if there's one thing people should do as the result of stories on the trial, it's go to their medicine cabinets and throw out products containing ephedrine.

''I had no clue as to what I was giving up to lose a few pounds,'' Talbert said.

Talbert said she was shopping in a mall in 1993 when she spotted Amp II, a product advertised as an herbal liquid diet supplement. It was effective at helping her lose weight, so much so that she recommended it to friends and relatives.

''I was losing weight,'' she said. ''I believed it was an all-natural product. My co-workers and people used to come to me and I would encourage them.''

But after two years of taking the product, Talbert suffered a stroke that led to a severe brain injury and six months of missed work at her job with an electric utility.

Talbert's attorney, Richard Vollertsen, said the company is the most egregious he's seen in 20 years of practice.

''The company made over $236 million selling this product, knowing it was dangerous,'' Vollertsen said.

The company presidents had backgrounds in used car sales and the vice president in pool installation and car parts.

''The people who formulated this particular product had no upper-level education or pharmacological background,'' Vollertsen said.

''In our opinion, it's legal speed,'' said Cynthia Culmo of the Texas Department of Health, who appeared as a witness for Talbert.

''We had more reports of injury with these type of products than we've ever had in the history of the Department of Health in Texas,'' Culmo said.

Attorney Phil Eide, who represented E'ola, said the verdict will be appealed. Company officials still believe their products are safe, he said, and they were not negligent. He said the product was tested for safety.

''I think that they were genuinely unaware that their products could cause serious complications,'' Eide said. ''And I don't believe it does if it's taken in normal doses.''

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