Science-based medicine writer sued by threatened doctor (UPDATE: Skeptic win)

UPDATE: Science-based medicine site reports that this lawsuit is over.

On September 30, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted Dr. Novella’s motion for summary judgment, ending the lawsuit against him by Dr. Edward Tobinick and two of his companies. Earlier in the case, all of the other defendants had filed successful motions to dismiss or for summary judgment and were no longer parties to the case.

That he won the remaining issues in the case on a motion for summary judgment is highly significant. Summary judgment motions are granted sparingly by the courts. In granting his motion, the judge was required by law to view the facts in the light most favorable to Tobinick and the other plaintiffs and draw all reasonable inferences from those facts in their favor. Dr. Novella had to convince the judge that there was no dispute as to any of the relevant facts and that those undisputed facts entitled him to prevail. Because of this ruling, the case will not go to trial.

Source: Tobinick Lawsuit Update – Justice Has Prevailed « Science-Based Medicine

Originally posted 23 Jul, 2014

It is not rare for purveyors of woo to resort to legal threats against skeptical advocates. They don’t have the facts in their favor so they use baseless threats. Well, not so baseless. Several cases have resulted in financial worries for those who are attempting to inform the public about dubious products, people or nonsense. I’ve even had this happen to me a few times when a paranormal researcher, so-called eyewitness, or psychic didn’t like what I had to say.

It’s happening again. This time, they picked on a particularly strong target (one of the best blogs out there) and they did it in a lame way.

SGU Productions, the Society for Science-based Medicine, and Dr. Steven Novella are being sued for an article Steve wrote for Science-based Medicine website in May of 2013 about Dr. Edward Tobinick and his use of the drug Enbrel.

NeuroLogica Blog » Another Lawsuit To Suppress Legitimate Criticism – This Time SBM.

Dr. Novella writes:

The claims and practice of Dr. Tobinick have many of the red flags of a dubious medical practice, of the sort that we discuss regularly on SBM. It seems that Dr. Tobinick does not appreciate public criticism of his claims and practice, and he wants me to remove the post from SBM. In my opinion he is using legal thuggery in an attempt to intimidate me and silence my free speech because he finds its content inconvenient.

Of course, we have no intention of removing the post as we feel it is critical to the public’s interest. This is what we do at SBM – provide an objective analysis of questionable or controversial medical claims so that consumers can make more informed decisions, and to advance the state of science in medicine.

We also feel it is critical not to cave to this type of intimidation. If we do, we might as well close up shop (which I suspect the Tobinicks of the world would find agreeable). Defending against even a frivolous lawsuit can be quite expensive, but we feel it is necessary for us to fight as hard as we can to defend our rights and the work that we do here at SBM.

Tobinick claims the post is an advertisement which sets the bar a bit lower to establish an unfair attack on a “competitor”. All that is wrong.

So, Streisand Effect engaged as those who actually care about truth in advertising and blogging spread the word that Tobinick resorts to such dirty tactics instead of defending his claims.

Other people who have rightly called out bullshit and pseudoscience quackery when they’ve seen it have been put through the legal wringer – Brian Deer, who was sued by Andrew Wakefield; Simon Singh, who was sued by the British Chiropractic Association and threatened by a ridiculous publication; and Ben Goldacre, who faced the wrath of Matthias Rath.

Stanislaw Burzynski’s crew threatened many bloggers, a Norwegian blogger was harrassed by Xocai “healthy chocolate” people, the skeptical vet was threatened by a dog cancer “expert”, and Retraction Watch writer Ivan Oransky was threatened over reporting a factual retraction!

People just DO NOT want to see their names associated with bad things on the net, so they throw a fit, scream and wave their arms (and get their lawyers to write letters) to fix that PR problem with legal threats or fraudulent DMCA complaints.


More companies go after critical bloggers with heavy-handed tactics

Homeopath threatens blogger with legal action

Mike Adams’ way – When you don’t have facts, threaten legal action

Anti-vax Meryl feels threatened by critics

The value of lawyers shines when bullies threatened blogger Hawkins

It’s almost a given to have this happen. If you make any difference in the blogsphere whatsoever, you will get such inane threats. It’s all they’ve got to throw at you. They don’t have backbones and they don’t have the science to defend their ideas, so they pull this crap.

Some insider info — when one of our favorite activists is attacked by quacks, the wagons get circled, the “BS” signal gets broadcast in the sky, and offers for legal advice are not far behind.

  6 comments for “Science-based medicine writer sued by threatened doctor (UPDATE: Skeptic win)

  1. Alex Murdoch
    July 23, 2014 at 7:32 PM

    Dr. Tobinick, welcome to the Streisand Effect. You know what they say about “No such thing as bad publicity”? They’re wrong.

  2. July 23, 2014 at 8:16 PM

    I’ve been threatened thrice with lawsuits — twice by astrologers, once by a UFO nut. Fortunately in all those cases, they were empty threats, while I suspect in one she actually did contact a lawyer and the lawyer said it was she who was harassing me … I suspect this because within 48 hours, ALL of her material about me was taken off her websites and her Twitter feed went private. I guess I’m lucky that she contacted a sane lawyer.

  3. July 23, 2014 at 11:20 PM

    Streisand Effect in full force! I guess Dr. Tobinick doesn’t realize that while there may be divisions in the skeptic’s community, when someone tries to suppress free speech, skeptics come together and get the word out about what is happening and spread the original information that the person is trying to suppress as far as they can.

  4. Peter Robinson
    July 24, 2014 at 2:51 AM

    Should the threat of action against SBM materialise ( I am not sure from above if any more than handwaving has taken place so far), one would hope that there is scope within the skeptical World to offer BM some good pro bono assistance.

    Having been on the receiving end of threats of legal action by just about every one of the sellers of fake bomb detectors at one time or another, it can be unnerving. Fortunately, none of mine came home to roost, as was pretty predictable.

    If Tobinick does proceed, let’s hope it ends up costing him a whole lotta lolly.

  5. October 7, 2015 at 6:41 PM

    Congratulations Dr. Novella and Science-Based Medicine.

  6. Mike C.
    October 8, 2015 at 7:52 AM

    I’m sure glad that Dr. Novella won. I also listen to his podcast Skeptics Guide to The Universe.

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