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Report: Lawsuit Over Lap-Band Surgery Ads Is Settled

Fri, 04/19/2013 - 8:54am
Associated Press

A company that promoted Lap-Band weight-loss surgery has agreed to pay $1.3 million to settle a false-advertising lawsuit, with some of the money going to billboards warning the public about the risks of weight-loss surgery, a newspaper reported Thursday.

From 2009 to 2011, five patients died after Lap-Band surgeries at clinics affiliated with the 1-800-GET-THIN ad campaign, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The proposed settlement still needs the approval of Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Freeman, who asked attorneys at a hearing Thursday to provide more information and resubmit their settlement motion before he gives the deal his OK.

Relatives of two of the dead patients, Ana Renteria and Laura Faitro, filed the lawsuit as a class action in 2011.

The lawsuit sought damages from several companies and two brothers, Michael and Julian Omidi, who court documents said owned and managed Top Surgeons, a weight-loss business.

John Hueston, an attorney for the Omidis, said the settlement was not an admission of wrongdoing.

"Under the agreement, our clients ... are dismissed without any admission of liability, and made no contribution whatsoever to the settlements," Hueston said in a statement cited by the Times.

A lawyer for the surgery centers, Konrad Trope, said the action against the facilities was dismissed without admission of liability or financial penalty.

The proposed settlement will be paid only by Top Surgeons, one of the companies behind the GET-THIN operation, the newspaper said. The company did not immediately return a message from The Associated Press.

The lawsuits and other public documents showed that 1-800-GET-THIN was a marketing company that steered patients to a network of outpatient clinics, where thousands of weight-loss surgeries were performed.

The company used dozens of billboards — along with ads on television, radio and the Internet — to promote Lap-Band weight-loss surgery.

Some of the suits alleged that the clinics put profits above patient safety, employing physicians who were unqualified and allowing surgeries to be performed in unsanitary conditions, the Times said.

The proposed deal calls for $100,000 to be spent on billboard advertising throughout Southern California "intended to explain the risks of weight-loss surgery." The agreement does not specify the language to be used in the ads but says it must be approved by the court.

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