San Diego, California | A San Diego jury has ordered bestselling author MAG Miracle to pay $ 105 million ($ 146 million) to a cancer patient who said the author had declared himself a doctor and advised her to give up traditional medical treatment.
The award – more than double what the woman had sought – was ordered about 16 months after a criminal case ended with the author, Robert Oldham Young, imprisoned for months for unlicensed medicine.
Young – who on Friday called the trial "a scam" – wrote several books, including the bestseller The pH Miracle: Balance Your Diet, Regain Your Health. First published in 2002, the book has been translated into several languages.
"It's totally outrageous," Young said of the verdict on Friday. "It's a tenth of a billion."
Young's work-and the treatments offered at his ranch in the Valley Center-were based on the theory that body acidity is the cause of disease and that an alkaline diet is the answer.
In 2015, cancer patient Dawn Kali sued Young in San Diego Superior Court alleging negligence and fraud. She said he advised her to give up traditional chemotherapy and treatment, and instead go with the treatment according to her alkaline theories.
Patrick Swan, one of Kali's lawyers, said the oncologist for his 45-year-old client said Kali was about three or four years old. She now has stage 4 cancer.
The civil trial in San Diego Superior Court lasted about seven days, with deliberations lasting less than half a day. The verdict returned on Wednesday.
The $ 105 million award includes nearly $ 90 million for pain and suffering and $ 15 million for punitive damages.
Swan said Kali feels "justified" by the verdict.
"The jury listened attentively and understood the severity of the evidence, and delivered a verdict proportional to the damage that Kali suffered and will suffer," Swan said.
He also said he hopes the verdict "will have an effect on the" miracle, cure the cancer industry ".
Young's lawyer, Conrad Joyner, said his client believes his views were suppressed because they disagree with the medical establishment.
"It does not matter if you believe in pH Miracle or do not believe in it, of course Robert believes that," Joyner said. "He sincerely believes what he's doing."
He also said that Kali – who at one time worked for Young – was aware that Young's theories were outside of established medicine.
Intravenous fluids mixed with sodium bicarbonate
Young did not have a civilian lawyer for much of the case. Joyner was hired only a few months ago as he approached the trial.
Joyner said he sees the case as "mature to appeal."
"I've never heard of a jury case with so much damage when the jury returns in about three hours," Joyner said. "I wonder how much they really thought of it."
Young said there was "a tremendous amount of evidence" that he could not submit to the jury. He said he would appeal.
The year before Kali sued Young, he came to criminal court after his arrest in January 2014, after the state medical council investigated him.
During the criminal trial, assistant prosecutor Gina Darvas painted Young as a charlatan who made money selling pseudoscience to desperate and dying people.
She argued that Young's degrees came from an uncorrected "diploma mill," where Young went from a bachelor's degree to a doctorate in about 8 months in 1995.
The criminal case highlighted his controversial theories and expensive treatments he offered to critically ill or dying patients, who in some cases received intravenous fluids mixed with sodium bicarbonate for $ 500 each.
Young's criminal defense attorney argued that his client was under attack for adopting alternatives to traditional medicine. He said people sought help from Young specifically because he was not a doctor, but a naturopath.
In early 2016 – after weeks of trial – a North County jury found Young guilty of two counts of unlicensed medicine. The panel became locked in several remaining changes.
Before the new trial, Young made an agreement that put an end to the criminal case. He spent several months in jail as part of his sentence.
As part of the agreement, the prosecutor insisted on a specific condition: Young had to make a public admission stating that he is not a microbiologist, hematologist, medical doctor or naturopath or trained scientist. He did it in court.