Since September, 90s model Linda Evangelista has been embroiled in a lawsuit over a cosmetic procedure that she says did the opposite of what it claimed and ruined her famous physique. Evangelista is suing Zeltiq, the company that markets CoolSculpting, claiming the so-called fat-freezing treatment left her “permanently disfigured.”
CoolSculpting is a cosmetic procedure designed to reduce the appearance of fat bulges without surgery. Its ad says it “literally freezes and kills fat cells” and is “FDA cleared” to treat fat under the chin and jawline, as well as on the thighs, stomach and back, among others. In the lawsuit, Evangelista claims that after receiving seven CoolSculpting treatments between 2015 and 2016, she developed a condition known as paradoxical adipose hyperplasia, or PAH, which court documents describe as “a serious adverse reaction where targeted fat cells increase in number and size”. (and actually get bigger) after treatment and form hard, bulging lumps under the skin. In a recent People article, Evangelista said that due to hard protrusions at the top of her inner thighs, which she says were caused by the treatment, she could not wear dresses without a belt underneath, otherwise her bare thighs would go to the point of “almost bleeding”. ”
The lawsuit further claims that Zeltiq, the company that invented and markets the procedure, knew about the risk of PAHs since at least 2013, based on an annual report to investors that acknowledged the risk of personal liability. likely to sue them because of the side effect. Even so, Evangelista claims, they didn’t sufficiently warn her or the dermatologist who performed the procedure of the risk.
Zeltiq’s attorneys said in court documents that the company fulfilled its obligation to warn Evangelista of the risk when it signed documents containing information about the possibility of PAHs. Beyond that, they argue that its claims fail for other reasons regarding consumer law, statutes of limitations, and whether a claim as “safe and effective” can legally be considered a warranty. The company filed a motion to dismiss the case in December. A judge has yet to rule on that. An attorney for Evangelista said he was unable to comment on the matter at this time, and Zeltiq’s parent company did not respond to a request for comment.
Personal injury attorney Louiza Tarassova, who specializes in cosmetic procedure cases and has represented several clients over CoolSculpting, says in a sense, lawsuits like Evangelista’s are to be expected. Companies like Zeltiq — and its parent pharmaceutical companies Allergan and AbbVie — need to anticipate legal actions and plan for them. “The more popular the product, the more they will be exposed to various claims and lawsuits,” she says. At the same time, she condemns Zeltiq’s handling of the HAP discovery, which, as the “paradoxical” of its name suggests, creates the complete opposite effect to what CoolSculpting is supposed to do. “It’s such a serious, permanent side effect,” she says, noting that she’s spoken to some people who’ve had surgery for the condition to see it return. “The way they handled this was so beyond any normal decent behavior, any morality. They took no particular action. They described in a vague way, in two lines, which would mislead practitioners.
Evangelista isn’t the only person to take legal action against Zeltiq. Others have claimed in federal court that they suffered adverse side effects from the same procedure.
In 2015, an Ohio doctor sued Zeltiq for breach of contract, among other charges. She claimed she bought a CoolSculpting machine for her office after demonstrating the procedure on herself. She claimed a company representative told her that any side effects would be “minimal in nature and only have a rare chance of occurring.” Shortly after the procedure and subsequent purchase, however, she began to experience “severe and prolonged pain and numbness”, with some numbness becoming permanent. His case was dismissed later the same year. In 2016, a 39-year-old woman from New York claimed the CoolSculpting machine was “faulty” and left her with “growth in both thighs”. She dismissed the case later that year.
In 2019, a Bahamian man, represented by Tarassova, sued the company saying that a few months after receiving CoolSculpting treatments in 2018, he had developed a hard lump “in the shape and size of a ball of bowling” above his navel. He claimed he was not given enough warning of the side effect or the difficulty of reversing it. In 2021, a judge ruled in favor of Zeltiq, saying the company’s warnings were legally “adequate”, that the man had signed a waiver acknowledging the risk of injury. Tarassova and her client appealed the decision. “Unfortunately, the judge did not allow the case to go to trial by jury,” she said. rolling stone. “He judged that, based on his opinion, the PAH warnings by Zeltiq were sufficient to alert physicians to the condition. The court’s decision is now on appeal. We ask the appeals court to consider whether the evidence should have been presented to the jury for the jury to decide whether Zeltiq’s conduct was wrong.
Beyond lawsuits claiming CoolSculpting harmed people, the company has also faced lawsuits for its business practices. A medical spa sued Zeltiq in 2021, alleging unfair and deceptive business practices. They claimed the company had sold them a CoolSculpting machine, telling them it would be in constant use and bring business while knowing it would in fact be “barely profitable” for those vendors. This action is in progress.
Evangelista’s high-profile case is still ongoing, but one thing is certain: Zeltiq and its owners won’t go quietly. Tarassova says companies like theirs are “notorious” for their aggressive and expert defense in court. “These pharmaceutical companies make billions and part of their business is litigation,” she says. “They are very experienced litigators and several firms are working on each case at the same time. They have a product to protect.