Quackbusters Massively Crushed in California Court…

This story is a belly laugh – unless, of course you’re a quackbuster…  Then, maybe it’s not so funny.

Opinion by Consumer Advocate Tim Bolen

December 12th, 2003 was the day when a Rancho Cucamonga, California, jury of twelve delivered their verdict in a trial called Hendricksen vs. Metabolife.  The Judge was Jeffrey King, who was conducting his last trial before he was appointed to the California Appeals Court bench.

The trial had taken six weeks –  30 full days of trial.  In the end, it was no contest.  The jury voted in favor of the defendant, Metabolife.

On the plaintiff’s side was the quackbuster’s favorite attorney Christopher Grell from Oakland, California.  On the defendant’s side were competent, thoughtful, attorneys with social conscience, who cared about their clients and the people of California.

The star witness for the Plaintiff was none other than National Council Against Health Fraud’s (NCAHF) president Robert S. Baratz, MD, DDS, PhD, who took the time from his busy schedule at his Boston area hair removal salon to come to California to “do in” the big bad guy defendant Metabolife, and permanently deter them from their evil ways of selling supplements to Californians.  Sarcasm intended.

Bobbie brought two other experts(?) with him to testify, also. Baratz’s testimony?  The usual bull droppings.  The plaintiff was trying to maintain that the defendant (Metabolife)’s product had caused Hendricksen to have a stroke.

But the defense pulled a really mean, rotten trick. You know how tricky lawyers can be.  They used a tactic that I, Tim Bolen recommended to them (I’m a little tricky myself).  They used REAL witnesses, with REAL credentials, with REAL knowledge of the subject they were testifying about, from REAL experiences in the field they were testifying about.

Quackbusters don’t know how to deal with this sort of tactic.

The defense brought in witnesses from the University of California San Diego, the University of California San Francisco, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Hospital, etc. etc…  They used a REAL Neurologist, that unlike Baratz, had REALLY passed his board exams, and, unlike Baratz, was REALLY board certified in his specialty.

They brought in an expert from the United States government who, unlike Baratz, REALLY WAS, and is, involved in government research of supplements.  They brought in a guy who, unlike Baratz,  REALLY HAD worked for the FDA (as a Regional Director) and who, unlike Baratz,  REALLY did know how the FDA works.  And so on…

It was a slaughter.

Before the defense even had to put on its case it had the right to cross-examine Bobbie Baratz.  And that, I bet, was a hoot.  I couldn’t make it to the trial the day Baratz was on the stand, but you can be sure Metabolife’s attorneys had my “Baratz” files – and used them well.  Baratz, fool that he is, admitted under oath, that he was running his website as a business solicitation for Christopher Grell, and that, in turn, Grell would then hire him (Baratz) as his “expert witness.”  Of course, Baratz’s infamous claims of expertise on his resume were an issue.  Like, for instance, those “150 published papers…”

The jury didn’t take long to decide.

I realize that it isn’t really funny that Metabolife had to spend it’s hard-earned money defending itself in a grueling six-week trial.  I hope they didn’t have to lay off any people to pay the attorney fees for this tragedy.

But, what is funny is the quackbuster arrogance of it all.  Metabolife stood it’s ground – defended it’s good name against the quackbuster onslaught – meager that it was.  They prevailed.  They withstood.

Grell, Baratz, and Hendricksen, however, well, that’s a different story.  I’ll bet there’s some finger-pointing going on right now, because, for them, this is a disaster.  Grell spent six weeks in a trial 400 miles from his home he didn’t win.  He probably got a very BIG bill from Bobbie Baratz for his (insert laughter here) “expert witness” services.  Plus the two other witnesses Baratz brought with him.  Attorneys usually take these kinds of cases on a contingency fee basis.  In other words, if they win, they get 40% of the jury award.  If they lose, their client is stuck with costs.

Of course Grell had to pay for the other side’s experts also.  Those that he deposed.

The plaintiff got tagged for $63,000 in defendant’s court costs also.  I”ll bet that’s a bill plaintiff Hendricksen didn’t expect.

I wonder if Hendricksen, right about now, is consulting with another lawyer about how he got talked into this debacle by Baratz and Grell.  I’ll find him, and ask him…

Stay tuned…

Tim Bolen – Consumer Advocate