Energy supplement product blamed for death of young soldier

288093_sMany people in Las Vegas, Nevada, know manufacturers have a duty to make safe products and warn users of potential risks. When manufacturers fail in this duty, the consequences can be deadly, as a recent case illustrates. The manufacturer of an energy supplement may be held liable for selling a defective product after a healthy soldier who consumed the supplement suffered from cardiac arrest.

Failure to warn 

The soldier was a 22-year old Army private who had completed basic training and was reportedly in good physical condition. Before a training exercise in June 2011, he took an energy supplement containing the stimulant dimethylamylamine, or DMAA. About 10 minutes into a unit formation run, the soldier collapsed and went into cardiac arrest.

The soldier’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the product manufacturer and the drugstore that sold the supplement. The manufacturer denied any connection between the supplement and the soldier’s death. In a New York Times interview, representatives from the same company stated they were unaware of any health problems associated with the supplement.

Evidence of health risks to people who take DMAA is not lacking, however. Some countries have deemed the ingredient unfit for human consumption and banned it. As early as January 2009, the FDA was receiving reports of health problems exhibited by people who took DMAA. Today, the FDA states that the ingredient can elevate blood pressure, contributing to shortness of breath, chest tightening and heart attacks.

These risks may not all have been known when the soldier consumed the supplement. Still, the drugmaker could be held liable for failing to discover and address them.

Product liability laws 

When an unsafe product injures an individual, the victim or surviving family members may win compensation by proving the company was negligent. In Nevada, plaintiffs may prove strict product liability by showing the following things are true:

  • The drugmaker made a defective or dangerous product available to the public.
  • The product’s defect directly caused the victim’s injury.
  • The defect was present when the drug left the manufacturer. 

Products may be defective because of poor design or improper manufacturing procedures. A product is also considered defective if it lacks adequate warnings about safe usage and potential risks.

If a manufacturer has not recalled a product, proving the product is dangerous can be difficult. Industry experts must testify that a product is defective. Medical professionals can then explain how the defect resulted in injury or death. Victims of defective products can usually benefit from seeking legal counsel to ensure evidence of the product’s defects and resulting harm is presented properly.