Fame and celebrity

Chuck Norris sues for US$10 million, claims wife poisoned during MRI scans

Couple argue that gadolinium, a metal used as a contrast agent in MRI scans, caused Gena Norris to sustain gadolinium deposition disease

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 November, 2017, 1:46pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 November, 2017, 8:14pm

Actor and martial artist Chuck Norris is suing several health care companies, claiming his wife was poisoned by a chemical used during magnetic resonance imaging scans.

In a lawsuit filed last week in San Francisco Superior Court, Chuck and Gena Norris argued that gadolinium, a metal used as a contrast agent in MRI scans, caused Gena to sustain gadolinium deposition disease, experiencing “multiple, debilitating bouts of pain and burning throughout her body” and suffering long-term damage.

The Norrises are seeking more than US$10 million in damages from companies they say should have warned them of potential risks.

“Over the past several years, my focus has been on Gena’s health,” Chuck Norris said.

“And now we are working together to speak out about the dangers of MRI contrast agents.”

Experts say that MRI scans are still considered safe, and the contrast agent is used when the information needed outweighs the small risk of harm.

Gadolinium-based contrast agents “have been used for diagnosis and treatment guidance in more than 300 million patients worldwide,” according to a statement last year from the American Society of Neuroradiology and American College of Radiology. The chemicals enhance the visibility of organs, blood vessels and other tissues in the body during imaging tests, helping doctors see abnormalities such as a tumour.

The Norrises’ lawyer, Todd Walburg, said that the couple’s lawsuit was “one of many cases” that his law firm, Cutter Law, was filing against MRI contrast manufacturers.

Walburg said that Gena Norris was initially being tested for rheumatoid arthritis, which, he said, turned out not to be a problem.

But the Norrises argued in the lawsuit that after several MRI exams, Gena Norris developed a burning pain throughout her body, and suffered violent shaking, numbness and tingling, and weakness. She said she has since suffered cognitive deficits, kidney damage and has had trouble breathing, according to the complaint.

The couple argued that had they known about potential risks, Gena Norris would not have been given the gadolinium-based contrast agent.

Now, they say, they want to raise awareness to help others who have experienced similar medical issues. They are suing pharmaceutical distributor McKesson Corp., and the diagnostics, research and imaging arms of the Italian health care company Bracco S.p.A., among others, for knowing of the potential risks and for failing to warn them.

Bracco said that the company does not comment on pending litigation, though it “takes patient safety very seriously and stands behind the safety of all of its products”.

McKesson said that it was “aware of the lawsuit and is currently reviewing the complaint. We will respond in a timely matter.”

Research has shown that gadolinium-based contrast agents can be retained in the brain and other body tissues.

But the US Food and Drug Administration, which approved gadolinium as a contrast agent in the 1980s, said in May that it has discovered no evidence that such deposits in the brain caused any health issues.