Today, Judge Gardephe dismissed with prejudice the amended complaint brought by two prominent “anti-aging” doctors against the nonprofit consumer advocacy website “Quackwatch.” Last year, Judge Gardephe dismissed the original complaint, containing defamation claims based on an article reporting that the plaintiffs had agreed to pay fines to the Illinois licensing authorities for improperly using the term “M.D.” after their names (see our coverage here). Plaintiffs’ amended complaint claimed that the defendant, a retired doctor who operates the “Quackwatch” site, had secretly contacted government officials in China and Malaysia to scuttle the plaintiffs’ valuable government contracts based on the allegedly defamatory article on “Quackwatch.”
Judge Gardephe ruled that the claims were time-barred and did not relate back to the original complaint:
There is nothing in the original complaint that hints at – much less asserts – Plaintiffs’ new claim that Defendants made oral statements to Chinese government officials – nearly fifteen years after the Article was published – that were defamatory of Plaintiffs . . . . Because Plaintiffs’ new claims of defamation . . . are based on an entirely distinct set of factual allegations, they do not relate back.
Judge Gardephe once again dismissed the tortious interference with prospective economic advantage claims as duplicative of the defamation claim:
Plaintiffs argue, however, that their tortious interference claims are “substantially different from the defamation claim,” because the defamation claim “relate[s] to the certain specific statements made by the Defendants,” whereas the tortious interference claims “relate to the intentional interference that the Defendants caused once they knew of the underlying contracts and business relationships” Plaintiffs had with Chinese and Malaysian officials.
This is nonsense. Plaintiffs’ tortious interference claims are clearly premised on the same set of facts as their defamation claim . . . . Because the entire injury pleaded in relation to the tortious interference with prospective economic advantage causes of action flows from the effect of the defamatory comments on Plaintiffs’ reputation, Plaintiffs’ causes of action for tortious interference must be dismissed as duplicative of Plaintiffs’ defamation claims.
The defendant was represented pro bono by Steptoe & Johnson LLP.