West Palm Beach, FL— Attorneys debated whether a South Florida-based nutrition company and the green tea extract it sold are responsible for the disease that cost a Texas man his liver, as trial opened against the company Wednesday. McCants v. Vitacost.com, Inc., 2016-CA-004982.
James McCants, then 50, was forced to undergo a liver transplant in July 2014, months after he began taking green tea extract supplements sold by Vitacost.com, Inc., an online nutrition company owned by grocery giant Kroger. McCants claims the extract caused his liver failure, and Vitacost failed to warn him of its potential dangers.
During Wednesday’s openings, McCants’s attorney, Miller Weisbrod’s Clay Miller, told jurors Vitacost marketed the product as providing a host of health benefits. But, he said the company never disclosed the extract's link to liver problems on the product's bottle and did not not highlight any potential risks involving the extract on its website.
“Nowhere on their website, where they discuss the product, did they disclose any risk about the product,” Miller said. “Anyone that looked at this website, even today, would think there is no downside to the product. Only the potential benefit, no potential risk.”
Miller told jurors that the Vitacost employee charged with researching the extract’s risks and benefits failed to include information on its connection to liver problems in his case file. “If you would have done any search of the literature back during this time, dozens of citations in the literature would have come up to articles and case reports about people suffering liver injury and even liver failure after taking green tea extract,” Miller said. “And not one single article was put in [Vitacost’s research] file.”
Miller said McCants also suffered severe kidney damage from the extract and will incur more than $6 million total medical expenses alone.
The defense argues Vitacost’s warnings are adequate but that McCants, who took two different Vitacost products containing green tea extract in the months before his liver failure, failed to follow them.
During Wednesday’s openings Nicklaus & Associates’ Edward Nicklaus told jurors Vitacost bottles admonished consumers to consult a doctor before taking supplements if they suffered from medical conditions. Nicklaus said McCants, who was clinically obese and took medicine for allergies, failed to follow this directive. “It is a standard and accepted warning in the industry that is utilized on many supplements of many kinds, not only with our product but with other people’s products,” Nicklaus said. “He did not pay attention to the warnings.”
Nicklaus also noted that McCants took a variety of supplements and medication from other sources in the years before his liver failure. He contended there was no definitive link between Vitacost’s extract and McCants’s liver problems. “They really can’t prove that there was a cause [that led to] this unfortunate transplant, because of one particular pill,” Nicklaus said.
Trial in the case is expected to last through next week.
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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