West Palm Beach, FL—Jurors Monday cleared a South Florida-based online nutrition company of responsibility for the catastrophic liver damage a Texas man suffered after taking the company’s green tea extract. McCants v. Vitacost.com, Inc., 2016-CA-004982.
The Florida state 15th Circuit Court jury, in Palm Beach County, deliberated for about 4 hours before finding in favor of Vitacost, a Kroger-owned nutrition company, on negligence and failure-to-warn claims surrounding its green tea supplements.
James McCants was forced to undergo a liver transplant in 2014, months after beginning to take Vitacost’s green tea extract supplements. McCants, 54, claims the product damaged his liver and kidneys.
During Monday’s closing arguments, McCants’s attorney, Miller Weisbrod’s Clay Miller, requested more than $6.2 million in medical expenses alone, plus an unspecified amount for pain and suffering.
The nine-day trial turned largely on whether Vitacost bore a duty to warn about potential liver problems linked to green tea extract and whether a specific warning could have prevented McCants’s liver failure.
During Monday’s closings, Miller argued years of studies linked green tea extract with liver damage. But, he said, Vitacost employees failed to include such studies in their pre-market analysis of the supplement, and they failed to include specific warnings on the company’s website or product.
“Is it proper just to bury your head in the sand on this? Miller asked. “You’re not giving people full, informed consent about what they’re getting into, and you’re not giving them information that may be able to allow them to stop taking it if they show early signs of liver damage.”
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But the defense, led by Nicklaus & Associates’ Edward Nicklaus, argued that Vitacost’s general warnings about the supplement were sufficient. During Monday’s closings, Nicklaus said studies failed to show green tea extract posed any unreasonable risk of liver damage. And he noted there was no direct proof that the company’s supplements caused McCants’s liver failure.
Nicklaus reminded jurors McCants took a long list of supplements, some of which were associated with liver problems, without consulting a doctor, as warnings advised. “Mr. McCants is a self-treater,” Nicklaus said. “What you put in your body, ladies and gentlemen, you ought to get advice for, especially if you’re old enough to know better. That’s just common sense.”
Editor's Note: This is a developing story and will be updated as events warrant.
Email Arlin Crisco at email@example.com.
James McCants is represented by Miller Weisbrod’s Clay Miller, Lawrence Lassiter, and Josh Birmingham; Domnick, Cunningham & Whalen’s Sean Domnick; and Howie Law’s John Howie, Jr.
Vitacost is represented by Nicklaus & Associates’ Edward Nicklaus, Raul Flores, and Yaniv Nahon.
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