In an opinion yesterday, Judge Gardephe dismissed a defamation complaint brought by two prominent doctors who practice “anti-aging” medicine (see coverage of them in the New York Times here) over an article on a nonprofit consumer advocacy website called “Quackwatch” reporting that they had agreed to pay fines to the Illinois licensing authorities for improperly using the term “M.D.” after their names. The doctors have medical degrees from a school in Belize that does not qualify for the M.D. designation in Illinois.
Judge Gardephe found that, to the extent the article’s placement on a website called “Quackwatch” would imply the doctors are “quacks,” the doctors had not shown that the implication was false:
[T]he term “quack” is defined as “a person who falsely pretends to have medical skills or knowledge.” . . . . To the extent that the placement of the Article on the Quackwatch Website implies that Plaintiffs “falsely pretend[ed] to have medical skills or knowledge,” Plaintiffs have not pled facts sufficient to demonstrate that such an implication is false. Plaintiffs’ settlements with the State of Illinois bar them from continuing to identify themselves as having M.D. degrees. A claim for defamation by implication must be based on a ‘”misleading omission or false suggestion.”‘
The defendant was represented pro bono by Steptoe & Johnson LLP.