Quackbusters in BIG Court trouble...
Opinion by Consumer Advocate Tim Bolen
January 21, 2003
The bell is tolling for the National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF), it's president Robert S. Baratz, it's vice-president de-licensed MD Stephen Barrett (quackwatch.com), and the rest of the board members. Maybe even the membership. They are in the final days in a California Appeals Court, and it doesn't look good for them.
Last year the NCAHF organization name was used, without permission of the NCAHF board, by Baratz and Barrett, to sue approximately 43 defendants, all "Alternative Medicine" practitioners, or companies. Baratz and Barrett, who were trying to generate "expert witness" fees for themselves, were claiming that "since Alternative Medicine had never been scientifically proven - it was health fraud." They were laughed out of court, and out of California - with one exception - one California Superior Court Judge ordered a case dismissal based on California's anti-SLAPP law.
SLAPP means Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, and California has made a law AGAINST that activity -awarding attorney's fees to the victim.
The "victim" in this one case, was a group of homeopathic product manufacturers who banded together to defend their cases in common. Their two-fold strategy, (1) to move the case into a "complex litigation" court designed to handle highly technical issues, and (2) to tag the plaintiff with the court and attorney fees in an anti-SLAPP motion. It worked.
In the final days of the case, a couple issues will have to be decided (1) Who pays? (2) How much will they pay?
What The NCAHF, it's board members, and Barrett and Baratz REALLY have to worry about is question # 2... For, the homeopathic manufacturers, unlike the quackbusters, did their legal homework up front, and marched into court with 13 inches of legal documentation. The quackbusters came in with bull droppings.
The legal question is "Will the quackbusters get tagged for the full cost of the up front legal strategy , AND the cost of appeal?"
I estimate the "up-front" at $500,000, and the Appeal at another $200,000. Since the decision to make the NCAHF the plaintiff in these cases was made by Baratz and Barrett without approval of the NCAHF, I think Barrett and Baratz, as well as the NCAHF, the rest of the board, et al, are going pay - and pay big.
Anybody want to buy quackwatch.com, Or the NCAHF? A house in Pennsylvania? A house in Massachusetts?
Tim Bolen - Consumer Advocate