San Diego, California | A San Diego jury has ordered the author of the bestselling pH Miracle books to pay $US105 million ($146 million) to a cancer patient who said the author held himself out as a doctor and counseled her to forego 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, going to jail for a few months for practising medicine without a licence.
Young – who on Friday called the judgment “a fraud” – has written several books, including the bestselling The pH Miracle: Balance Your Diet, Reclaim 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 one-tenth of a billion.”
Young’s work – and treatments provided at his Valley Center ranch – were based on the theory that acidity in the body 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 forego chemotherapy and traditional treatment, and instead go with treatment in line with his alkaline theories.
Patrick Swan, one of Kali’s attorneys, said his 45-year-old client’s oncologist said Kali has about three or four years to live. 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 came back on Wednesday.
The $US105 million award includes nearly $US90 million for pain and suffering, and $US15 million as punitive damages.
Swan said Kali feels “vindicated” by the verdict.
“The jury listened carefully and understood the gravity of the evidence, and rendered a verdict that was commensurate with the damage Ms Kali suffered, and will suffer,” Swan said.
He also said he hopes the verdict “will have an effect on the “miracle, cure-all cancer industry”.
Young’s attorney, Conrad Joyner, said his client believes that his views have been suppressed because they are not in line with the medical establishment.
“No matter if you believe in the pH Miracle or disbelieve it, it’s clear that Robert believes it,” Joyner said. “He sincerely believes what he is doing.”
He also said Kali – who at some point worked for Young – was aware that Young’s theories were outside established medicine.
Intravenous fluids mixed with baking soda
Young did not have a civil attorney during much of the case. Joyner was retained just a few months ago as it neared trial.
Joyner said he sees the case as “ripe for appeal”.
“I have never heard of a jury case with that much damages where the jury comes back in about 3 hours,” Joyner said. “I wonder how much thought they really put into it.”
Young said there was “a tremendous amount of evidence” that he was not allowed to present to the jury. He said he would appeal.
The year before Kali sued Young, he landed in criminal court after his arrest in January 2014 after the state medical board investigated him.
During the criminal trial, Deputy District Attorney Gina Darvas painted Young as a charlatan who made money peddling pseudoscience to desperate, dying people.
She argued that Young’s degrees came from an unaccredited “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 the expensive treatments he offered to seriously ill or dying patients, who in some cases were given intravenous fluids mixed with baking soda for $US500 each.
Young’s criminal defence attorney argued that his client was under attack for espousing alternatives to traditional medicine. He said people sought Young’s help specifically because he was not a doctor, but rather a naturopathic practitioner.
In early 2016 – after weeks of trial – a North County jury found Young guilty of two counts of practising medicine without a licence. The panel deadlocked on several remaining changes.
Facing retrial, Young struck a deal that put an end to the criminal case. He spent several months in jail as part of his sentence.
As part of the deal, the prosecutor insisted on a specific condition: Young had to make a public admission declaring that he is not microbiologist, hematologist, medical or naturopathic doctor or trained scientist. He did so in court.