Wednesday, October 19, 2011

FDA Warning on Dangerous Weight Loss Supplements

According to a recent report in Consumer Reports (link below), the FDA has issued a warning regarding certain weight loss aids. The 20 different supplements are said to contain sibutramine, the active ingredient in weight-loss medication Meridia, previously found to substantially increase blood pressure and heart rate and also linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. It was removed from the U.S. market in October 2010.

The targeted supplements include:

-Acai Berry Soft Gel ABC
-Advanced Slim 5
-A-Slim 100% Natural Slimming Capsule
-Botanical Slimming
-DaiDaiHuaJiaoNang (also contains phenolphthalein, a solution used in chemical experiments and a suspected cancer-causing agent not approved in the U.S.)
-Dream Body Slimming Capsule
-Fruit Plant Lossing Fat Capsule
-Health Slimming Coffee
-Ja Dera 100% Natural Weight Loss Supplement
-Leisure 18 Slimming Coffee
-Lose Weight Coffee
-Magic Slim Tea
-Magic Slim Weight Reduction Capsule
-P57 Hoodia
-Pai You Guo Slim Tea )also contains phenolphthalein, a solution used in chemical experiments and a suspected cancer-causing agent not approved in the U.S.)
-PhentraBurn Slimming Capsules
-Sheng Yuan Fang
-Slender Slim 11

The Consumer Reports account further notes that the FDA has recommended that the public steer clear of such supplements. We agree. Our lawyers have long advised against using weight-loss supplements because the risky side effects often outweigh the benefits. The supplement industry, unlike "Big Pharma," is largely unregulated and as consumers you have very little protection from public safety regulation (aside from those disclaimers that 'these claims have not been evaluated by the FDA...").

The lawyers at our office have had years of experience in dealing with injuries caused by harmful supplements. If you've experienced health problems from using one of these supplements, feel free to contact our office (951-549-9400) for a consultation, or visit our website for additional information (

(The link to the Consumer Reports post is:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Trial Tips-Cross-Examination

With court back logs and the emphasis in litigated matters on "alternative dispute resolution," it seems that trial lawyers just don't get into trial as often as we once did. That could explain, in part, why the "art" of cross-examination has (IMHO) suffered some in recent years. To "stay sharp", I'm always on the lookout for material that allows me to stay on top of my litigation game. In that effort, I came across some trial tips from Judge William Rylaarsdam in a recent CEB publication (link below) that addresses, fairly succinctly, some ground rules for cross-examining a witness in trial that I thought I'd share.

In Mastering the Art of Cross-Examination: Tips from a Judge Judge Rylaarsdam offers useful insights for a successful cross.

Don’t confuse cross-examination with a deposition. The purposes of each are completely distinct: the purpose of a deposition is to find out what information the witness has and nail the witness down to a particular version of the facts, and the purpose of cross-examination is to ascertain the truth of alleged facts.

Consider whether to cross-examine at all. The answer to this depends on whether the witness has testified to anything that injures your case.

Control your own demeanor during cross-examination. When counsel speaks pleasantly and frankly, shows confidence, refrains from acting surprised, and stays focused on the real issues, he or she projects credibility and adds to the credibility of his or her case.

Keep it simple. Always keep cross-examination questions short and simple. Convoluted questions will lead the jury to conclude that you are trying to confuse witnesses rather than to get to the true facts.

Keep it short. A long cross-examination may lead the jury to conclude that the witnesses’ testimony must be of particular significance.

Only ask questions that help you. Never ask a question on cross-examination unless (1) you know what the answer will be, and (2) the answer aids your side of the case.

Avoid open-ended questions. Open-ended questions give the witness too much latitude to answer. They are particularly harmful when asked of an expert witness who will then look toward the jury in a very professorial manner and explain the matter yet again to the dummy lawyer who didn’t get it the first time.

Know when to quit. Always quit while you are ahead. When a cross-examination question elicits a helpful answer, don’t elaborate by asking a further question on the same subject because the witness will likely use those further questions to try to explain away the earlier answer.

Make good use of deposition answers. Having the witnesses’ sworn answer to a question means that you can safely ask that question during cross-examination as long as it advances your position. If the answer is the same as that given during the deposition, then favorable information is before the jury, and if it differs, then you can impeach the witness with the deposition testimony.

Get the court’s help with a recalcitrant witness. Each time the witness gives an evasive answer, politely ask the court to instruct the witness to answer the question. Each time the witness’s answer goes beyond the scope of the question, ask the court to strike the offending portion of the answer and to instruct the jury to disregard it.

To these I would also add "Be Balanced." By this, I mean that in the heat of trial an attorney can get "tunnel-vision" and focus too dramatically on one area, at the expense of others. Even after nearly 25 years of trial experience, I am constantly surprised by at least one "piece" of a case that jurors find important. If you spend too much time on that "one thing" that you thought was key, you may "gloss over" others that jurors may find decisive in your case.

In the end, trial lawyers have to be themselves and "tips" like these should be used as ways to improve what you already do, not replace your style.

(These tips can be found in their original form at )