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When a common cold escalates so suddenly into a life-threatening stroke, there is much to question. After just a few doses of a presumably reliable over-the-counter drug, Miguel Valverde found himself rushed to an emergency room to relieve severe aches and pains he had never felt before. Alka-Seltzer Plus, the medicine Valverde took and expected to ease his symptoms was eventually linked to the hemorrhagic stroke he suffered at the young age of 25. The Bayer AG manufactured product contained phenylpropanolamine, or PPA, a decongestant that does not meet the burden of proof for safety, according to Dr. Eric Brass, a chairman of the department of medicine at UCLA.
At the time, Miguel worked as a commercial truck driver, regularly making his way from his hometown of El Paso to cities like New Orleans to unload product. It was on one of those ordinary driving days where he felt like his head was about to explode. Miguel explained, “it wasn’t a normal headache,” that it was the kind of pain felt after being injured badly. It was only after he struggled to stay upright and coordinated that he asked one of the workers at his truck stop, a man he did not know, to take him to the emergency room.
Upon arrival at the ER, Miguel underwent surgery to relieve pressure on his brain – the decongestant PPA had ruptured a weakened blood vessel and compressed cerebral tissue, putting his life at serious risk. While Miguel was lucky enough to have the support of his mother at his side, his recovery was a difficult and costly one. After being monitored at the hospital for two weeks post-op, Miguel was released having survived such a critical condition. Unfortunately, it took another three months before he could get back to work safely.
When Miguel was made aware of the fact that Alka-Seltzer Plus had triggered his hemorrhagic stroke, he requested aid from the experienced attorneys at Waters Kraus & Paul. A lawsuit was brought against the manufacturer of Alka-Seltzer Plus, Bayer AG, a multinational pharmaceutical corporation. It was one of the first of over 1,150 PPA claims against the company to go to trial.
In October of 2004, an El Paso County court jury delivered a verdict in favor of Miguel Valverde. They decided that Bayer AG was not intentionally malicious in its development of the cold remedy. However, the product had a known ‘design defect, and a safer alternative was available that would have prevented or significantly reduced the risk of injury – an alternative in which the pharmaceutical giant failed to invest. Miguel was awarded $400,000 in compensatory damages, including for the pain and anguish suffered from having experienced such a health scare.
The outcome of this case now resonates in the current version of Alka-Seltzer Plus, a PPA free drug that no longer carries the same risk of stroke. Today, Miguel Valverde is known for having made a full recovery in spite of the odds of surviving such a lethal condition.
Client Name: Miguel Valverde
Diagnosis: Hemorrhagic Stroke
Occupation: Commercial Truck Driver
State/Location of Filing: El Paso, Texas
Cause No. 2002-929
Valverde v. Bayer AG
El Paso County, Texas, County Court At Law #3
Hon. Linda Chew
Miguel Valverde suffered a hemorrhagic stoke after ingesting a common over-the-counter medicine containing phenylpropanolamine (PPA) at the age of 25. He filed suit against the manufacturer and the jury found that the product’s defective design was a producing cause of his injuries. This was the first of 1,150 PPA claims against this manufacturer to go to trial. The jury awarded a total of $400,000 in compensatory damages to Mr. Valverde.
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