Miguel Valverde, a young man from El Paso, Texas suffered a hemorrhagic stroke after ingesting a common over-the-counter medicine containing phenylpropanolamine (PPA) at the age of 25. He filed suit against the manufacturer, Bayer AG – the first of 1,150 PPA claims against this manufacturer to go to trial.
Miguel was just starting his career as a commercial truck driver. At the time he lived with his mother, sister and his sister’s three children. Two days before his next assignment he felt a cold coming on. Not wanting to miss work or spend a lot of time on the road with cold symptoms he bought a box of Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold medicine. He had tried other cold medicines in the past but was unhappy with the results. Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold had been recommended by friends as a good product. However, Miguel was always very cautious when taking medication on the road for fear of falling asleep at the wheel. He waited until his first rest period and read the package carefully before taking the first dose. He only took the medicine at night before going to bed.
A couple days later, Miguel made it to his appointed stop in New Orleans, Louisiana and parked his truck. He took another dose of Alka-Seltzer Plus and went to bed. The following morning after eating breakfast he moved his truck into the dock for unloading. As he opened the trailer doors his “head started hurting really bad.” Miguel testified that “it wasn’t a normal headache.” He said it was severe, the kind of pain you feel when “you hit yourself in the head.” He held on to the trailer to keep himself from staggering or falling as he walked back to the cab of the truck. Miguel sent a message to his manager letting him know that he did not feel well and may go to the emergency room. Miguel knew something was terribly wrong when he threw up. He felt so ill that he asked one of the workers at his stop, a man he didn’t know, to take him to the emergency room.
Little did Miguel know that the Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold medicine contained a decongestant known as phenylpropanolamine (PPA) which is associated with increased risk of stroke. Upon arrival at the emergency room, Miguel was admitted to the hospital. The next thing he remembers is waking up in a hospital bed with his mother looking over him. He wondered what she was doing in New Orleans, so far from home. It wasn’t until later that he learned he had a hemorrhagic stroke – a weakened vessel that ruptures and bleeds into the surrounding brain compressing the brain tissue – and underwent surgery to relieve pressure on his brain. Two weeks later, the hospital released Miguel to his doctor in El Paso. It was an excruciating airplane ride home. It took another three months before he could get back to work.
Quite some time later Miguel learned about medications containing PPA and the link to stroke. With the assistance of Waters Kraus & Paul, Miguel brought suit against the manufacture of Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold medicine, Bayer AG. It was the first of 1,150 PPA claims against the manufacturer to go to trial. In 2004 the jury found in favor of the plaintiff, Miguel Valverde, and further that Bayer made a defective and dangerous product when a safer alternative was available. The case subsequently settled.