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.
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.
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.
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.