Judge Again Rules in Favor of Man Suing Atkins Empire
Former Dieter Will Have His Day in Court
West Palm Beach, Fla.— A Florida judge has just denied Atkins Nutritionals’ second attempt to have a groundbreaking lawsuit against it dismissed. The lawsuit was filed last May by Jody Gorran, a former dieter who developed a life-threatening artery blockage after following the high-fat fad diet for two-and-half years. Palm Beach County judge Susan Lubitz also ruled that Atkins must comply with Gorran’s requests for documents, answers to written questions, and depositions of senior Atkins officials. The rulings mean that the lawsuit will move forward towards trial and the discovery phase will commence, during which Gorran, 53, will seek support for his contention that the privately-held corporation knowingly misled the public about the high-fat diet’s potential dangers.
“The judge’s ruling is good news for the little guy and bad news for unscrupulous companies cashing in on people’s weight problems,” says former dieter Jody Gorran. “This case could be the final nail in the low-carb coffin.” Recent news reports have focused on the decreasing popularity of the diet and the financial troubles of Atkins Nutritionals.
Judge Lubitz denied Atkins Nutritionals’ first motion to dismiss in November soon after hearing oral arguments presented by Dan Kinburn, representing Jody Gorran, and Martin Reeder for Atkins Nutritionals. Kinburn is senior counsel for Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
In both attempts to have Gorran’s case thrown out of court, Atkins Nutritionals had argued that the company was protected under the first amendment. But case law strongly supports Gorran’s lawsuit. For example, in U.S. v. Schiff, the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, ruled against the publishers of The Federal Mafia, a book promoting a tax evasion scheme, finding that commercial speech can be enjoined if it is fraudulent. In another well known case, Braun v. Soldier of Fortune Magazine, the court found that advertising murder-for-hire is not accorded free-speech protection.
Gorran argues that the Atkins diet caused him to develop severe coronary disease, including dramatically elevated cholesterol levels, crushing chest pains, and a potentially fatal arterial blockage requiring an angioplasty and a stent. A heart scan done prior to Gorran beginning the diet showed no signs of heart disease. He is asking that all Atkins products and books be required to carry warning labels. He is seeking less than $15,000 in damages.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.