Jury awards $130m to Nevada residents who suffered extreme liver damage after drinking trendy bottled water that was laced with ROCKET FUEL chemical – killing one and prompting emergency transplant in another

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • The water, brand name Real Water, was recalled from store shelves in 2021
  • It was marketed as premium ‘alkalized’ water with healthy detoxifying properties
  • READ MORE: 70MILLION Americans living with tap water laced with PFAS

A Nevada jury has awarded about $130 million in damages to patients who suffered extreme liver damage after drinking trendy bottled water laced with toxic chemicals.

Five people suffered excruciating pain and loss of control of limbs after drinking the $2.99 ‘alkalized’ Real Water that contained hydrazine, an extremely flammable and cancerous chemical used to make rocket fuel.

Myles Hunwardsen underwent a liver transplant at age 29, while Jazmin Schaffer, Tina Hartshorn, Miriam Brody and Christina Sosa all suffered liver failure.

In October, a state court jury also awarded more than $228 million in damages to several plaintiffs including relatives of a 69-year-old woman who died and a seven-month-old boy who was hospitalized. Both were diagnosed with severe liver failure. 

The company admitted negligence, saying the chemical likely entered the water during the manufacturing process. 

It said the water undergoes a seven-stage purification process to remove certain ions, particles and bacteria. It is thought that hydrazine may have been added to the water during treatment before bottling.

Jazmin Schaffer lost function of her hands and started shaking uncontrollably while driving

The product was marketed as premium ‘alkalized’ water with healthy detoxifying properties. 

According to the Real Water website, the water is passed through a resin bed, charcoal filter and UV light sanitizing unit among other things to remove certain ions, particles and bacteria. 

It is then treated with the company’s E² Technology, which stands for Electron Energized, where electrons are added to the water.

The end product is said to contain only two ingredients – purified water and potassium bicarbonate, an alkaline mineral.

It is thought that hydrazine, a chemical used in rocket fuel, may have been added to the water during treatment before bottling. 

The water was marketed by Las Vegas-based Real Water before the product was recalled from store shelves in 2021 after the spate of illnesses.

The Clark County District Court jury awarded more than $30 million in compensatory damages to the plaintiffs including Myles Hunwardsen, a Henderson man who underwent a liver transplant at age 29. 

The jury levied another $100 million in punitive damages.

The four other plaintiffs were each awarded more than $1 million in compensatory damages. 

Jazmin Schaffer, 33, started to drink Real Water in October 2020 after her boyfriend got her bottles delivered to their home.

They ordered two or three five-gallon jugs every two weeks. Ms Schaffer said she drank around a gallon a day, but they used the water for everything from cooking to making tea and coffee.

Mid-October, Ms Schaffer began to feel ill. She had a pain in her abdomen, felt ‘very, very nauseous,’ and suffered brain fog and severe fatigue.

She was sleeping more than 12 hours a night and began vomiting multiple times a day. There was also blood in her vomit.

Ms Schaffer went to urgent care and was told she was just dehydrated and to drink more water.

Then one day while driving, she lost function of her hands and started shaking uncontrollably. 

‘I couldn’t grab the steering wheel,’ she told the jury through tears.

She then went to Spring Valley hospital where she was admitted. Doctors told her she had liver failure and five times the amount of liver enzymes than normal.

She was informed that she may need a liver transplant.

‘It was very scary. I didn’t know what was going on,’ she said.

She was forced to undergo a liver biopsy without any pain medication because of the state her liver was in. She was in pain for a month after and said it ‘hurt to breathe.’

Miriam Brody was 78 when she was taken to Henderson Hospital and treated for liver failure

Miriam Brody was 78 when she was taken to Henderson Hospital and treated for liver failure

Tina Hartshorn fought back tears as she gave her testimony

Tina Hartshorn fought back tears as she gave her testimony

Miriam Brody started drinking Real Water in November 2018 when she was 78. She purchased liter bottles of the water from Costco.

She was at a beauty salon when she suddenly became hot all over and her face swelled up. Her hands began tingling and she passed out.

Once she came round, she vomited and had diarrhea. ‘I felt like I was out of control of my whole body,’ she told the jury.

She also had stomach ache and said she had never experienced anything like it.

‘It was really scary because I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Especially when you’re a little older, you think, this is it.’

She continued to drink Real Water but a few weeks later, she suddenly felt ill again and began shaking, so she called 911.

She was taken to Henderson Hospital where she was treated for liver failure. 

In October 2020, Tina Hartshorn ordered five-gallon jugs of Real Water to her home in the north Las Vegas Valley.

She drank the water daily for almost a month before she began to feel sick.

She started vomiting and suspected an ear infection.

‘The more water I drank, the worse I got,’ she told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

By November, Mrs Hartshorn was admitted to Centennial Hospital where she was kept for nine days, running up a $100,000 medical bill in the meantime.

She had almost lost the ability to speak and could not keep any food down. Physicians wondered if she was diabetic because her insulin was so low, but she told them she was not.

The verdict reached Tuesday was the second large-sum award in a negligence and product liability case involving AffinityLifestyles.com Inc. and its Real Water brand, which was sold in distinctive boxy blue bottles as premium treated ‘alkalized’ drinking water with healthy detoxifying properties.

Alkaline water usually has a pH level of eight or higher, while standard water has a ‘neutral’ pH level of seven. 

Some believe the water can reverse the signs of aging or even prevent cancer, though there is no scientific evidence to back it up, and many experts believe claims about alkaline water are nothing more than marketing gimmicks. 

The Mayo Clinic recommends to just drink regular water.

The Food and Drink Administration (FDA) warned people not to drink the alkaline water

The Food and Drink Administration (FDA) warned people not to drink the alkaline water

The most high profile case was that of Myles Hunwardsen (pictured) who had to be airlifted to the hospital for a liver transplant after drinking the company's water

The most high profile case was that of Myles Hunwardsen (pictured) who had to be airlifted to the hospital for a liver transplant after drinking the company’s water

Real Water brands itself as alkaline water that can serve as an alternative to tap water, but and FDA complaint alleges the water was just tap water mixed with a chemical compound

Real Water brands itself as alkaline water that can serve as an alternative to tap water, but and FDA complaint alleges the water was just tap water mixed with a chemical compound

‘We want to send a message to food and beverage manufacturers that they should be committed to quality assurance,’ Will Kemp, a lawyer who represented plaintiffs in both trials, said Thursday.

Kemp said several more negligence and product liability cases are pending against the company, including one scheduled to begin in May stemming from liver damage diagnoses of six children who ranged in age from seven months to 11 years old at the time.

Affinitylifestyles.com was headed by Brent Jones, who served as a Republican state Assembly member from 2016 to 2018. Kemp said Jones has declared bankruptcy and moved out of the state. 

Other defendants in the case reached confidential settlements before trial, including Whole Foods Market and Costco Wholesale, which sold the water, and testing meter companies Hanna Instruments and Milwaukee Instruments. 

Terrible Herbst, a convenience store chain, reached a settlement during the trial.

At trial, jurors were told that tests found Real Water contained hydrazine, a rocket fuel chemical that may have been put in the water during treatment before bottling.

Real Water attorney Joel Odou argued that the company was unintentionally negligent, not reckless, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. 

He said the company didn’t know hydrazine was in the water and didn’t know to test for it.

The water the company used was from the Las Vegas-area public supply, which mainly comes from the Lake Mead reservoir behind Hoover Dam on the Colorado River.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority, the region’s main public supplier, monitors and tests for 166 different possible contaminants, spokesman Bronson Mack said Thursday. Hydrazine is not among them.

Mack noted that the water authority was not a defendant in the lawsuits and said the area’s municipal water supply meets or surpasses all federal Safe Drinking Water Act standards.

Real Water was sold for at least eight years, primarily in Central and Southern California, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Utah. It was also promoted on social media and sold online.

The US Food and Drug Administration and the Las Vegas-based Clark County Health District issued public warnings beginning in March 2021 not to drink or use the product, and ordered it pulled from store shelves.

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