As reported in the July 5, 2018, issue of Advertising Law, the media defendants in a consumer class action, including television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz, reached a $5.25 million deal in the latest legal action involving false advertising claims made for green coffee bean dietary supplements promising weight loss.
A trio of plaintiffs filed the case in February 2016, alleging that Dr. Oz, ZoCo Productions LLC, Entertainment Media Ventures, Inc., and Harpo Productions Inc. promoted products such as Labrada Garcinia Cambogia Dual Action Fat Buster and Labrada Green Coffee Bean Extract Fat Loss Optimizer as a “magic weight-loss cure” and “revolutionary fat buster” on the Dr. Oz talk show, when in fact no scientific evidence existed to back up the claims.
Without admitting any liability, the media defendants reached a deal following extensive negotiations and three mediation sessions. The settlement agreement provides for a $5.25 million fund to pay the following in full and in this order: any necessary taxes and tax expenses, all costs associated with settlement administration, class counsel fees and expenses (not to exceed 33 percent of the total fund), class representative incentive awards (two for $5,000 and one $7,500 award), and payments to authorized class members.
Class members include U.S. residents (1) who purchased any green coffee bean extract or garcinia cambogia product from February 2, 2012, until the settlement notice is disseminated and who saw any fake ad purported to be sourced from or approved by Dr. Oz or the media defendants; or (2) who purchased any weight loss product, ingredient and/or plant after viewing three specific Dr. Oz episodes (or any portion of Doctoroz.com on or after April 26, 2012) related to green coffee bean extract or garcinia cambogia, or after seeing any fake ad purported to be sourced from or approved by Dr. Oz or the media defendants. Claimants will receive $30 cash for each product purchased, up to $90 per household without proof of purchase, and without limit for those with receipts.
The defendants also promised not to re-air three episodes of “The Dr. Oz Show” that promoted the products and to remove online clips from all three episodes.
Since the article was published, the parties have released an agreed-upon joint statement about the agreement, noting, “None of the media defendants have been found liable for any wrongdoing and are pleased with the resolution of this matter.” According to the joint statement, per the proposed settlement agreement, the plaintiffs requested that the court dismiss Dr. Oz and Entertainment Media Ventures (Sony Pictures Television was previously dismissed from the suit). Dr. Oz will not personally pay any money toward the proposed deal.
Litigation continues against the manufacturers of the dietary supplements.
To read the joint stipulation of settlement in Woodard v. Labrada, click here.
Why it matters: Though popular for a time, green coffee weight loss products yielded more legal action than weight loss success. In addition to consumer class actions like the one recently settled, the Federal Trade Commission brought several cases against the manufacturers and marketers of green coffee weight loss products alleging violations of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act. One case resulted in a $30 million judgment and a ban on deceptive advertising for one executive, while other companies agreed to pay $9 million and $3.5 million, respectively.