Michael Imani Sued for Perforating Patient's Colon

Stephen Barrett, M.D.


In 2013, Michael K. Imani, co-owner and clinical director of the Niles Wellness Center in Atlanta, Georgia, was sued by a man whose large intestine (colon) was perforated during administration of colonic irrigation with a Colenz device at Imani's clinic. The plaintiff, who has Parkinson's disease, consulted Imani for help with constipation and underwent two colonic irrigation treatments at Imani's office. The amended complaint (shown below) charged that:

During his deposition, Imani testified that 20,000 irrigations had been done at his clinic and that he had undergone the procedure about 150 times. The suit was settled in 2014 with payment of an undisclosed sum.

Note: To protect the patient's privacy, "the plaintiff" has been substituted for each mention of his name in the complaint.


IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF FULTON COUNTY
STATE OF GEORGIA

(Name withheld by Request)

Plaintiff,

v.

MICHAEL K. IMANI, individually, and THE
NILE WELLNESS CENTER, INC.,

Defendants.

)
)
)
)
)
)
)
)
)
)


CIVIL ACTION

FILE NO.: 2013CV236705


JURY TRIAL DEMANDED

Filed May 13, 2014

AMENDED COMPLAINT

COMES NOW the plaintiff, and as his Amended Complaint against Defendants Michael K. Imani ("Imani") and The Nile Wellness Center, Inc. ("Nile," collectively the"Defendants"), respectfully shows the Court as follows:

P ARTIES, JURISDICTION AND VENUE

1.

The plaintiff is a Georgia citizen and resident of Fulton County, Georgia.

2.

Nile is a profit corporation and may be served with process upon its registered agent, Deborah Imani, at its registered address located at 170 Boulevard SE, #A210, Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia 30312 or upon its managing agent, Imani, at the address below.

3.

Imani is a Fulton County resident and may be served with process at 221 16th Street, N.W., Apt. 6, Atlanta, Georgia 30363-1007. Upon information and belief, Imani is a shareholder, officer, director, and primary operator of Nile.

4.

Jurisdiction is appropriate in this Court because Nile is a Georgia corporation and Imani is a Georgia resident.

5.

Venue is appropriate in this Court because Nile maintains its registered agent and principal place of business in Fulton County, Imani is a resident of Fulton County and the events which give rise to this Complaint occurred in Fulton County, Georgia.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

6.

The plaintiff suffers from Parkinson's disease, which is a progressive, non-curable neurological disorder causing both motor and non-motor dysfunction and/or symptoms.

7.

One of the more problematic non-motor symptoms of Parkinson's burdening the plaintiff is, and has been, chronic constipation.

8.

In early June of 2012, the plaintiff began to think about exploring treatment options in the Atlanta area which would ameliorate this symptom.

9.

The plaintiff had remotely heard of a procedure known as colon hydrotherapy, but knew nothing about it other than it was supposed to be akin to an enema.

10.

On or about June 11, 2012, the plaintiff's discomfort became especially bothersome, so he decided to look for persons in Atlanta who provided such a service. He read portions of the web sites of two or three different service providers before he came across Nile's website, www.nilewellnesscenter.com (the "Website"). The Website stated that the Defendants were"digestive care experts" and had been voted "Best in Atlanta."

11.

Since he knew so little about colon hydrotherapy (also known as "colonic hydrotherapy" or simply as a "colonic"), the plaintiff wanted to assure himself, above all else, that the procedure was safe and that the individual administering and supervising the procedure possessed exemplary knowledge, skill, qualifications and experience.

12.

He read several sections of the Website, including the "Frequently Asked Questions" section (the "FAQ"). The answers to many of the questions posed in such section consistently represented, in no uncertain terms, that the procedure was absolutely safe (collectively, the "Safety Assurances"). Most of the Safety Assurances are listed below:

'"ls Colon Hydrotherapy Safe? Absolutely . . ."

"Colon hydrotherapy is the safe and gentle infusion of . . ."

"Colon hydrotherapy is a safe, effective method . . ."

“The most anyone will feel is the natural urge to have a bowel movement."

"Professionally administered colon hydrotherapy is safe."

"Can I continue my regular activities after a cleanse? Absolutely. You can work just as you did after a regular bowel movement."

"Yon are able to resume normal activity after your cleanse at the Nile Wellness Center because with the newer devices we use, we are able to ensure that the water is out of your system, which allows you to continue through the remainder of the day."

The Safety Assurances were material to the plaintiff. He relied upon them and they induced the plaintiff to purchase two (2) colonic hydrotherapy treatments from the Defendants.

13.

In addition to the Safety Assurances, the plaintiff's decision to purchase the colonic treatments was bolstered by Imani's impressive personal credentials set forth in the Website and by the fact that Nile claimed to have been voted "Best in Atlanta" as recently as 2012. In reality, many of such claims were false or, at a minimum, deceptive and misleading, and used for the sole purpose of inducing the plaintiff and other potential clients to purchase services offered by the Defendants.

14.

For example, Imani repeatedly referred to himself as a "doctor" or "Dr." throughout the Website and he claimed to have worked in Mind/Body Medicine since 1997. By making so many references to the title, "Dr. Imani", coupled with his utilization of the terms medicine, medical, and other terms and phrases throughout, Imani intended to give the impression to Website readers that he possessed superior knowledge and education in the field of medicine and health care. In fact, this is not the case.

15.

While Dr. Imani does claim to hold a PhD, upon information and belief, Imani's doctorate degree is not in the medical field but in Clinical Hypnosis. Upon information and belief, there are no accredited academic institutions in the United States offering such degrees. In fact, US institutions awarding doctorate degrees in "Clinical Hypnosis" are commonly referred to as "degree mills" because they offer bogus academic degrees for a fee. Accordingly, Imani's repeated use of the term "Dr." coupled with his concealment of the nature of his PhD was deceptive and was done for the purpose of inducing consumers, like the plaintiff, to purchase colonic services.

16.

The Website stated that Imani was a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner through the AAMA and that he was also a "Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner through the American Association of Drugless Practitioners." It is an honor when physicians become "Board Certified," as it connotes, to their peers and the public, that they possess exceptional clinical judgment, skills and attributes essential for the delivery of excellent patient care within their specialty. Upon information and belief, the "Board Certified" titles that Imani claims to hold are not awarded as a result of any expertise or his clinical excellence; instead, such titles were simply for sale to anyone. Imani's reference to the bogus certifications was deceptive and for the sole purpose of further inducing Website visitors, including the plaintiff, to buy colonic services from the Defendants.

17.

Finally, the Defendants' claim that Nile was voted "Best in Atlanta" is, on information and belief, also deceptive as it is not the product of legitimate consumer voting but simply a promotional campaign.

18.

In reliance upon (1) Defendants' repeated Safety Assurances, (2) the representations in the Website as to Imani's credentials, education and expertise; and (3) the fact that Nile was voted "Best in Atlanta," the plaintiff purchased two colonic hydrotherapy procedures from Defendants.

19.

Unbeknownst to the plaintiff, colon hydrotherapy was not safe. Colon hydrotherapy treatments have in fact caused serious injuries, conditions and deaths.

20.

The plaintiff's first procedure was in mid-June 2012 and passed without incident.

21.

On or about July 9, 2012, the plaintiff underwent his second colonic treatment. Just prior to the end of the treatment, the plaintiff began to feel very bloated.

22.

The plaintiff immediately cut off the water flow. A minute or two later, Imani came into to the room to inform the plaintiff that the procedure was completed.

23.

The plaintiff told Imani that he was feeling bloated and very uncomfortable.

24.

Without asking any follow-up questions or making any attempt to examine the plaintiff, Imani said the cause of his discomfort was simply stool and water still lodged in his colon. Imani told the plaintiff to get dressed and walk around the office for a couple of minutes, explaining that doing so would cause an evacuation of his bowels which would, in turn, eliminate his pain and discomfort,

25.

the plaintiff followed Imani's instructions, but the pain and bloatedness did not subside.

26.

A few minutes later, Imani told the plaintiff it was closing time and the plaintiff had to leave the office even though he was still in considerable pain. As the plaintiff was leaving, Imani smirked and commented that he hoped the plaintiff would not "mess-up" his vehicle on the way home.

27.

At no point did Imani inform the plaintiff that he could be suffering from a serious injury, nor did he direct the plaintiff to seek medical attention if the pain did not subside.

28.

The plaintiff's pain intensified during his drive home. He collapsed as soon as he got inside his house and was in unbearable pain for an extended period of time. the plaintiff called 911 for emergency assistance and was transported via ambulance to Piedmont Hospital.

29.

After numerous tests, the attending emergency room physician at Piedmont Hospital informed the plaintiff that his colon was perforated, that it could be life threatening, and that he needed immediate emergency surgery to repair the same.

30.

Joseph Mareno, M.D., the on-call colorectal surgeon, was notified to come to the hospital to perform the surgery. Within an hour or so after Dr. Mareno's arrival, the plaintiff underwent emergency surgery to repair the perforated colon which was caused by the allegedly "absolutely safe" colon hydrotherapy and to remove the toxicity in his abdomen which had escaped therefrom.

31.

As a part of the procedure, Dr. Mareno created a colostomy in the plaintiff's abdomen. A colostomy is a procedure that brings one end of the colon out through an approximate 1.5 inch hole in the abdominal wall. The colon is then is affixed to the abdomen with sutures. Once the colostomy portion of the surgery was completed, bowel movements would no longer exit through the plaintiff's rectum, but would instead exit into a colostomy bag which was attached to the outside of his abdomen.

32.

Following surgery, the plaintiff was told that, assuming he recovered, he would have one of two options with respect to the colostomy. He could live with the colostomy for the remainder of his life or he could undergo colostomy reversal surgery in two to six months. Colostomy reversal surgery is major surgery which is accompanied by high mortality and morbidity rates.

33.

The plaintiff remained in Piedmont Hospital for six days and suffered severe pain during his stay.

34.

Upon being released, the plaintiff had to endure the indignity of continuously wearing, cleaning, and changing his colostomy bag. He was also in significant pain.

35.

The plaintiff did not want to wear a colostomy bag any more than he had to so, on September 4, 2012, he underwent colostomy reversal surgery performed by Dr. Stephen Cohen, a colorectal surgeon at Southern Regional Medical Center in Riverdale, Georgia. To avoid the risk of abdominal infection the surgical wound had to be closed by "secondary intention," a procedure in which the wound is left open to close naturally. Due to this and other complications, the plaintiff was forced to remain in the hospital for twelve days. The reversal surgery left the plaintiff in a very weak and frail condition.

36.

Following his release from the Southern Regional Hospital, the plaintiff had to hire private caretakers to provide around-the-clock assistance because he was unable to care for himself. He also had to hire in-home nurses who came daily to clean his surgical wounds, change the dressings and repack the open wounds with gauze until they healed sufficiently enough to assure there would be no infection. When the wound finally healed, the plaintiff was left with an eight to nine inch ugly, gnarly, scar on his abdomen which measured over one-half inch wide in places.

37.

In an attempt to ameliorate his scaring, the plaintiff underwent cosmetic surgery performed by Dr. Diane Alexander at Northside Hospital on February 14,2013. The surgery was somewhat successful, but the scar is still clearly visible and will remain that way, and serve as a reminder of the incident for the rest of his life.

38.

In total, the plaintiff spent eighteen days in the hospital for multiple surgeries, and his medical bills were over $175,000.00 as a result of the injuries caused by the Defendants' colonic treatment, which Defendants represented to be "absolutely" safe. The damage that the "absolutely" safe colon hydrotherapy procedure inflicted upon him is particularly tragic given the progressive nature of Parkinson's disease which will never permit the plaintiff to return to the lifestyle and quality of life he was experiencing on July 8, 2012. In essence, almost an entire year of the plaintiff's quality of life was taken as a result of the Defendants' deceptive Safety Assurances and the misrepresentation regarding the credentials held by Imani.

39.

the plaintiff brings this action for violation of the Fair Business Practices Act, O.C.G.A. §§ 10-1-390 et. seq., fraud, negligent misrepresentation, negligence and attorneys' fees, and for such other and further relief as the COURT deems proper.

COUNT ONE
(VIOLATION OF THE FAIR BUSINESS PRACTICES ACT)

40.

the plaintiff realleges and incorporates herein by reference each paragraph above as if fully set forth herein.

41.

Defendants are now, and have been for a period of time, engaged in consumer transactions or consumer acts or practices in the conduct of trade or commerce in part or wholly within the State of Georgia, as defined in O.C.G.A. § 10-1-392.

42.

Defendants have used, and are using, unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of consumer transaction and consumer acts or practices in trade of commerce as declared unlawful by O.C.G.A. § 10-1-393.

43.

Specifically, Defendants have knowingly and intentionally deceptively advertised, promoted, and solicited business via the internet (through the Website) in violation of O.C.G.A. §§ 10-1-393(a), (b)(2), (b)(3), (b)(5), (b)(7), (b)(9) by making the Safety Assurances, which they knew or should have known were false and misleading.

44.

The Defendants also violated the Fair Business Practices Act by making false and deceptive representations regarding Imani's expertise and credentials and marketing Nile as having being voted and awarded "Best in Atlanta 2012" when in fact, upon information and belief, such award was not the result of any legitimate consumer voting.

45.

The Defendants also violated the Fair Business Practices Act by representing that the equipment at Nile is FDA approved, certified and/or registered which Defendants knew or should have known was false and misleading.

46.

The plaintiff relied on the deceptive representations to his detriment.

47.

Such action constitutes unfair and deceptive acts and practices within the meaning of O.C.G.A. § 10-1-393 because (1) said representations were false, intentional, and misleading; and (2) said representations were designed to mislead and fraudulently induce the plaintiff and individuals like the plaintiff into purchasing colonic treatments.

48.

The Defendants have also violated O.C.G.A. §§ 10-1-393(b)(2) and 10-1-393(b)(5) by: (1) representing that the equipment at Nile is FDA approved, certified and/or registered; (2) representing that the services the Defendants sold have characteristics, uses and benefits that they do not have; and (3) marketing the equipment at Nile in a manner which is inconsistent with its FDA classification.

49.

All conditions precedent to bringing this claim, and the relief sought herein, have occurred including a written demand for relief from the plaintiff to the Defendants which was delivered more than thirty (30) days prior to the filing of this action. The Defendants did not respond to this demand.

50.

Defendants' violations of the Fair Business Practices Act are egregious and intentional. Accordingly, under O.C.G.A. §10-1-399(a) the plaintiff is entitled to, and seeks, his actual damages, attorneys' fees, treble damages, and punitive damages. The plaintiff is also entitled to, and seeks, punitive damages pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1.

COUNT TWO
(FRAUD)

51.

The plaintiff realleges and incorporates herein by reference each paragraph above as if fully set forth herein.

52.

Defendants made false representations regarding the safety of the colonic hydrotherapy. Defendants also made false and/or deceptive representations concerning Imani's experience and credentials and that Nile was voted "Best in Atlanta 2012." The Defendants also made false and/or deceptive representations that the colon hydrotherapy equipment used at Nile was FDA approved, certified and/or registered. The Defendants also misrepresented that the services sold at Nile had characteristics, uses and benefits that it did not have.

53.

Defendants made these representations with the knowledge that they were false and/or deceptive and with the intent to induce the plaintiff, and others like him, to purchase services from the Defendants.

54.

The plaintiff justifiably relied on the representations and purchased services from the Defendants.

55.

Defendants' actions proximately caused the plaintiff's damages.

56.

The plaintiff is entitled to, and seeks, punitive damages from the Defendants pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1 as a result of the Defendants' fraud.

COUNT THREE
(NEGLIGENT MISREPRESENTATION)

57.

The plaintiff realleges and incorporates herein by reference each paragraph above as if fully set forth herein.

58.

Defendants made false representations regarding the safety of the colonic hydrotherapy.

Defendants also made false and/or deceptive representations concerning Imani's experience and credentials and that Nile was voted "Best in Atlanta 2012." Defendants also made false and/or deceptive representations that the colon hydrotherapy equipment used at Nile was FDA approved, certified and/or registered. The Defendants also falsely represented that the services sold at Nile had characteristics, uses and benefits that it did not have.

59.

Defendants negligently made these representations with the intent to induce the plaintiff, and others like him, to purchase service from the Defendants.

60.

The plaintiff justifiably relied on the representations and purchased services from the Defendants.

61.

Defendants' actions proximately caused The plaintiff's damages.

COUNT FOUR
(NEGLIGENCE)

62.

The plaintiff realleges and incorporates herein by reference each paragraph above as if fully set forth herein.

63.

The Defendants engaged in gross negligence and/or negligent conduct which proximately caused the plaintiff's injuries.

64.

The Defendants' gross negligence and/or negligence included, but was not limited to, (a) misrepresenting the safety of colon hydrotherapy; (b) failing to adequately disclose the true dangers of colon hydrotherapy; (c) allowing the plaintiff to self-administer the procedure; (d) allowing the plaintiff to receive the colon hydrotherapy given the fact that he suffers from Parkinson's disease which increased the likelihood that the plaintiff would have been injured by the colon hydrotherapy; and (e) failing to adequately respond when the plaintiff's life was in danger.

65.

The plaintiff suffered damages as a result.

COUNT FIVE
(ATTORNEYS' FEES)

66.

The plaintiff realleges and incorporates herein by reference each paragraph above as if fully set forth herein.

67.

By engaging in the conduct described in this Complaint, Defendants have acted in bad faith, have been stubbornly litigious and have caused the plaintiff unnecessary trouble and expense, entitling the plaintiff to recover its attorneys' fees and/or litigation expenses actually incurred pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 13-6-11.

68.

Accordingly, in addition to any right to attorney's fees he has under the FBPA, the plaintiff is entitled to his expenses of litigation and attorneys' fees pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 13-6-11.

WHEREFORE, the plaintiff respectfully prays for the following relief:

(a) That the plaintiff be awarded actual, treble, punitive damages, and attorneys' fees for Defendants' violation of the Fair Business Practices Act;

(b) That the plaintiff be awarded compensatory and punitive damages for Defendants' fraudulent conduct;

(c) That the plaintiff be awarded compensatory damages on his claim for negligence;

(d) That the plaintiff be awarded punitive damages in an amount to be proven at trial on all counts asserted herein where punitive damages are recoverable;

(e) That the plaintiff be awarded attorneys' fees and/or litigation expenses actually incurred in this action; and

(f) That the plaintiff be awarded all other and further relief that this Court deems just and
equitable under the circumstances.

PLAINTIFF DEMANDS A JURY TRIAL

Respectfully submitted this 13th day of May 2014

________________________
Greg F. Hanley
Georgia Bar No. 32681
Jenn E. Ziemann
Georgia Bar No. 26428
gharley@burr.com
jziemann@burr.com

Attorney for Plaintiff

BURR & FORMAN LLP
171 Seventeenth Street, Suite 11 \00
Atlanta, GA 30363
Telephone: (404) 815-3000
Facsimile: (404) 817-3244

This page was revised on January 6, 2015.

Links to Recommended Companies