Just Because You Don't Like What People Say About You, Doesn't Mean You Get To Sue For Defamation
from the nuisance dept
We’ve written plenty of times about public interest organization Public Citizen, mainly concerning efforts by its litigation group to protect those who have been sued in bogus lawsuits that would impact the internet’s openness. However, every so often Public Citizen itself gets sued. Late last week, it revealed all of the details of a defamation lawsuit filed against it, concerning its letter to the FDA arguing that a certain product — the LipoTron — was being illegally marketed and promoted.
One of the organizations mentioned in the letter took exception to the claims in the letter and discussion on the web, and sent a cease-and-desist arguing that the claims were defamatory. In response, Public Citizen sent back a long letter backing up all of its claims (and also noting that they had never named the principal in the company, Mark Durante, so having him claim defamation personally didn’t make much sense). This is the point where it makes sense to give up, but Durante’s company, Advanced Aesthetic Concepts LP, sued anyway for libel, and asked the court for a temporary restraining order (TRO). When Public Citizen signed up a top local lawyer in Texas, pointed to Texas’ new anti-SLAPP law (which would allow them to seek lawyers’ fees), and told the lawyer that they were prepared to show up in court to contest the TRO, they were told that the case against them would be dropped.
At the very least, this yet again highlights the value of good anti-SLAPP laws in protecting those who are sued. But, once again we’re amazed at how many people seem to think that filing defamation lawsuits in situations like this could possibly bring about a good result. In this case, all it’s serving to do is call significantly more attention to the original claims that Public Citizen made in its original letter to the FDA (and then backed up in the legal filings).