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Arizona Class Action Targets Tijuana Weight Loss Doctor, American 'Weight Coyote'

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

A class action lawsuit filed in Maricopa County, Arizona claims a surgeon in Tijuana, Mexico used "high-pressure sales tactics" and at least one U.S.-based recruiter to lure clients south of the border, and the surgeon was negligent in performing weight loss procedures.

The lawsuit, filed by Jessica Ballandby against Dr. Mario Almanza and his alleged recruiter, Sandy Brimhall, claims Brimhall promised "a quick in and out," and "surgeries would be done by doctors who are qualified and competent." When Ballandby returned to the U.S., she was diagnosed with internal bleeding and compared Dr. Almanza's operation to a "pig farm."

Sketchy Surgeries and a "Weight Coyote"

Ballandby is joined in her lawsuit by Justin Blackburn, Carson Miller, Sheli Stoddard, and Sunshine Brewer who claim negligence, fraud, misrepresentation, violation of the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act, and intentional infliction of emotional distress on behalf of themselves and possibly 6,000 other patients. Balckburn is the step-son of Elizabeth Erickson, who died in 2013 after surgeons discovered the lap band she received in Mexico had eroded through her stomach and diaphragm, and had lodged in her right lung.

Over 20 other individuals and businesses are named in the lawsuit, including Fill Centers USA, which the suit claims would arrange trips to Mexico and aftercare in the U.S. for patients who received the Lap-Band surgery. Also named is the school district that employed Brimhall as a principal -- Brimhall dubbed herself the "Weight Coyote" in emails sent from her Show Low Unified School District account, and allegedly recruited referrals utilizing district resources during business hours while employed as a principal at Whipple Ranch Elementary School.

Class Is in Session

The class action alleges that the plaintiffs sustained long term physical, emotional, and mental effects after either utilizing the referral service provided by Brimhall, the surgeries performed by Dr. Almanza, the aftercare treatment received by Fill Centers, and other services provided by the defendants.

ABC News in San Diego confirmed four Americans died after having weight loss surgery with Dr. Almanza. "That's what he's treating human beings over there like," she said. "Just like a pig. Slaughtering them."

A class action lawsuit allows a number of litigants to file a single lawsuit if joining multiple lawsuits was not possible or practical, the members of the group possessed a joint interest in the question to be adjudicated, and the parties named in the suit could adequately represent the interests of persons who were absent from the action but whose rights would be affected by the outcome. If a court allows a class action to proceed, any judgment binds all members of the group.

If you have been injured by a medical procedure or have more questions about class action lawsuits, contact a local injury attorney.

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