USPlabs' DMAA Wrongful Death Suit Moves into Discovery

Leanne Sparling and Michael J. Sparling blame the death of their 22-year-old son, Michael, on USPlabs' Jack3d.

Josh Long, Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider

January 2, 2014

2 Min Read
USPlabs' DMAA Wrongful Death Suit Moves into Discovery

EL PASO, TexasUSPlabs, LLC and its executives are in the early stages of discovery in a wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of a deceased soldier who ingested the pre-workout supplement Jack3d.

The lawyers in the case have proposed exchanging initial documents later this month, with all factual discovery to be completed by the end of the year.

Leanne Sparling and Michael J. Sparling blame the death of their 22-year-old son, Michael, on Jack3d, a popular product whose substance 1, 3-dimethylamylamine (DMAA) has been linked to more than 100 illnesses and fatalities.

Michael J. Sparling, a soldier in the U.S. Army, collapsed on June 1, 2011, while training with his unit at the military base in Fort Bliss, Texas. He suffered cardiac arrest and died.

The lawsuit was transferred last year from California to El Paso, some 600 miles from USPlabs' headquarters in Dallas.

The parties last month proposed exchanging their initial disclosures by Jan. 24, with the plaintiffs submitting a written offer of settlement to opposing parties by Feb. 28 and defendants responding no later than March 28.

Jacob Geissler, USPlabs CEO, and Jonathan Doyle, the company's president, are among a number of individuals who are likely to be questioned by plaintiffs' lawyers before trial, with the parties requesting the court's permission to conduct more than 10 depositions per side. A proposed scheduling order specifies April 30, 2015 as the deadline for completion of expert discovery.

David Guaderrama, U.S. District Judge, has yet to rule on requests by USPlabs and its executives to dismiss the lawsuit. Another motion to dismiss, filed by the defendant Natural Alternatives International Inc. (NAI), remains pending as well.

GNC Corp. also is named as a defendant in the lawsuit. In its answer to the complaint, GNC alleged Sparling's "negligent," "careless" and "reckless" behavior contributed to his death.

In April 2013, USPlabs revealed plans to remove DMAA from its products. The sports supplement maker said its decision was for business reasons, and continued to defend DMAA as safe and lawful.

The wrongful death lawsuit was filed two months earlier than USPlabs' announcement. It asserts claims for negligence, strict products liability-defective design, strict products liability-failure to warn, breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty, unlawful business practices under California Business and Professions Code §17200 and wrongful death.

Plaintiffs are represented by Andrews & Thornton, in Irvine, CA. The Preston Law Firm in New Orleans is listed as lead counsel for the defendants, USPlabs LLC, Jonathan Vincent Doyle, Jacob Geissler, USPlabs Jack3d LLC, USPlabs Holdings LLC and GNC Corp.

The case number is EP-13-CV-00323-DCG, Western District of Texas, El Paso Division.

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 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 (in Wyoming), Colorado Lawyer (published by the Colorado Bar Association) and Nutrition Business Journal.

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