GET-THIN settlement to include billboard warnings

April 18, 2013 at 3:30 PM
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LOS ANGELES, April 18 (UPI) -- A $1.3 million settlement in California over false advertising provides for ads to warn the public about the risks of weight-loss surgery, court papers say.

The agreement with 1-800-GET-THIN requires approval from Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Freemen to be valid, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

The company, which posted billboards advertising Lap-Band surgery, steered clients to out-patient clinics that performed surgery in which a ring is placed around the stomach to prevent or discourage over-eating, the newspaper said.

But from 2009 to 2011, five patients died after the surgery in clinics associated with the marketing firm and relatives of two victims, Ana Renteria and Laura Faitro, filed a class-action lawsuit in 2011.

In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration sent 1-800-GET-THIN a letter advising them the ads were illegal, as they did not adequately alert the public to the risks associated with the surgery. the report said.

The company took the ads down after receiving the letter, the newspaper said.

The settlement includes a provision for $100,000 to be spent on billboard advertising to rectify that oversight. The billboards designated for Southern California are "intended to explain the risks of weight-loss surgery," the settlement says.

The settlement also includes $652,000 to cover legal expenses for the plaintiffs, $75,000 for administrative expenses and $36,000 to go to named plaintiffs.

"Under the agreement, our clients ... are dismissed without any admission of liability, and made no contribution whatsoever to the settlements," said attorney John Hueston, who represented brothers Michael and Julian Omidi, who "owned and operated," the marketing firm.

The settlement, if it stands, is to be paid entirely by Top Surgeons, one of several outpatient clinics that performed operations on 1-800-GET-THIN clients.

In a deposition in 2011, one of the surgeons associated with the Lap-Band clinics, Dr. Ihman Shamaan, said he was told by Julian Omidi that the clinics associated with the marketing firm were collectively taking in $21 million per month.

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