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USPlabs' DMAA Wrongful Death Suit Moved to Texas

Josh Long

October 16, 2013

3 Min Read
USPlabs' DMAA Wrongful Death Suit Moved to Texas

EL PASO, TEXASA wrongful death lawsuit that was filed against USPlabs LLC and GNC Corp. on behalf of a 22-year-old soldier who ingested a controversial supplement known as Jack3d has been moved to Texas.

The case has been transferred from California federal court to the Western District of Texas in El Paso, some 600 miles from USPlabs' headquarters.

The parents of Michael Sparling blamed USPlabs' supplement Jack3d for the death of their son, who collapsed on June 1, 2011, while training with his unit at the Fort Bliss military base. Sparling suffered cardiac arrest and died.

Janis Sammartino, a U.S. District Judge in San Diego, last week transferred the case to Texas, where she said that state's law "is likely to apply." 

Although Sparling began using the supplement near his home in Sacramento, CA, he continued to take it in Texas where the events leading to his death unfolded.

"The defendants will undoubtedly argue at trial that Sparling's death was not caused by his ingestion of 'Jack3d,' but rather by some other event or condition, and most, if not all, of the percipient witnesses to Sparling's death are military personnel located at Fort Bliss,' Sammartino wrote.

USPlabs executives, Jonathan Vincent Doyle and Jacob Geissler, also are named defendants.

In March, USPlabs moved to partially dismiss the lawsuit, including plaintiffs' claims for punitive damages.

The lawsuit's contention, that the defendants consciously disregarded the dangers of the supplement based on 2011 and 2012 studies, is illogical because the plaintiffs are relying on studies that had not been published until after Sparling's death, USPlabs argued.

The motion is still pending.

Natural Alternatives International Inc. (NAI), a nutritional supplements manufacturer who is a defendant in the lawsuit, has moved for dismissal.

Plaintiffs contend NAI made the ingredient beta-alanine under the trade name "CarnoSyn," which is contained in Jack3d.

Not only does the lawsuit fail to allege that CarnoSyn contributed to the soldier's death, NAI didn't make, sell or distribute the ingredient, the company argued in court papers. Rather, NAI explained it grants patent rights to customers of another company, Compound Solutions Inc. (CSI).  Customers purchase beta-alanine from CSI, according to the court documents.

DMAA is a stimulant that has been linked to more than 100 illnesses, including six deaths, although FDA officials haven't concluded the substance caused or was a substantial factor in the reported fatalities.

Earlier this year, USPlabs announced plans to reformulate products containing DMAA, otherwise known as dimethylamylamine. FDA warned consumers that DMAA could heighten blood pressure and lead to such cardiovascular problems as shortness of breath, tightening of the chest and a heart attack.

But a safety review panel formed by the U.S. Army and Department of Defense concluded DMAA did not cause the deaths of four servicemen. It said "some individuals may be predisposed to severe health consequences after using DMAA."

The findings could bolster the defense in the Sparling litigation. In its answer to the lawsuit, the retailer GNC alleged the soldier's  "negligent," "careless" and "reckless" behavior contributed to his death.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs and NAI did not respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit. A spokesperson for USPlabs said the company doesn't comment on litigation.

About the Author(s)

Josh Long

Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider, Informa Markets Health and Nutrition

Josh Long directs the online news, feature and op-ed coverage at Natural Products Insider, which targets the health and wellness industry. He has been reporting on developments in the dietary supplement industry for over a decade, with a special focus on regulatory issues, including at the Food and Drug Administration.

He has moderated and/or presented at industry trade shows, including SupplySide East, SupplySide West, Natural Products Expo West, NBJ Summit and the annual Dietary Supplement Regulatory Summit.

Connect with Josh on LinkedIn and ping him with story ideas at [email protected]

Education and previous experience

Josh majored in journalism and graduated from Arizona State University the same year "Jake the Snake" Plummer led the Sun Devils to the Rose Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes. He also holds a J.D. from the University of Wyoming College of Law, was admitted in 2008 to practice law in the state of Colorado and spent a year clerking for a state district court judge.

Over more than a quarter century, he’s written on various topics for newspapers and business-to-business publications – from the Yavapai in Arizona and a controversial plan for a nuclear-waste incinerator in Idaho to nuanced issues, including FDA enforcement of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA).

Since the late 1990s, his articles have been published in a variety of media, including but not limited to, the Cape Cod Times (in Massachusetts), Sedona Red Rock News (in Arizona), Denver Post (in Colorado), Casper Star-Tribune (in Wyoming), now-defunct Jackson Hole Guide, Colorado Lawyer (published by the Colorado Bar Association) and Nutrition Business Journal.

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