The wrongful death trial for a 22-year-old solider has been moved from California to Texas, closer to the lab that produces a supplement at the center of a storm of controversy.
The producers and distributors of a non-prescription supplement known as “Jack3d” (also referred to as DMAA or dimethylamylamine) have been implicated in a wrongful death suit.
Michael Sparling was training at Fort Bliss in 2011. He collapsed during a training exercise and died of a cardiac arrest. At the time, he was taking DMAA as part of his personal routine. His parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit stating that the USPlabs supplement was the cause of his sudden, unexpected death. The case was transferred to a jurisdiction in which the applicable state law would apply. In this instance, the case has been moved to Texas, even though Sparling started taking the supplement while he was in Sacramento, California. He died in Texas while still consuming the questionable product.
It is expected the defendants will argue that the young soldier’s death was the result of a training exercise or previously unknown or undiagnosed medical condition, or that Sparling died due to his own reckless, careless behavior by taking the supplement negligently and without fully vetting the product.
USPlabs LLC (the producer of the supplement) and GNC Corporations (the distributor of the supplement) are named defendants in the lawsuit, as are both operating officers of the laboratory being sued and Natural Alternatives International Inc. (Natural Alternatives granted their patent rights to another company for the component CarnoSyn (or beta-alanine), which is found in Jack3d). USPlabs has stated that the plaintiff’s contention — that the company negligently ignored the dangers of the supplement outlined in two published studies — does not make sense, since neither study was published until after Sparling’s death (they were released in 2011 and 2012, respectively).
However, if the results of those studies show that the supplement is dangerous, their date of publication will not matter in court. DMAA is rated as a stimulant with links to more than 100 illnesses and at least six deaths. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet concluded whether or not Jack3d contributed to the fatalities, although it has issued a warning that the supplement could dangerously elevate blood pressure and even cause a heart attack.
Prior to this lawsuit, four other servicemen’s deaths have been attributed to the use of Jack3d, at least initially. In all four cases, the supplement was ruled out by a U.S. Army and Department of Defense (DOD) safety review panel. The panel did state, however, that it was of the opinion that some personnel may be predisposed to serious consequences while using this supplement.
So, does this case have a chance at success? Providing that the jury attaches probative value and significance to the studies that indicate it to be dangerous, and to the observations on possible adverse effects made by the DOD, yes: the young soldier’s parents may well succeed in court. Trials like this one are often long and complex affairs, but it is the attorney’s job to meet the challenge and to fight for an equitable verdict.