Jun 30, 2020

Court Tosses Doctor’s $200+ Million Defamation Claims

A federal court has dismissed a South Florida physician’s defamation claims against three media companies. The lawsuit was seeking over $200 million in damages.

Judge Rodney Smith in West Palm Beach dismissed all three counts in a lawsuit against TEGNA Inc., Gannett Co., Inc., and News Corp.  Plaintiffs Gary Marder and his former medical practice, Allergy, Dermatology & Skin Cancer Center, Inc., alleged a single count of defamation against each defendant for coverage related to a False Claims Act fraud lawsuit against Marder, his practice, and others affiliated with the practice.

The federal investigations of Marder, a formerly licensed osteopathic physician, and his practice began with the False Claims Act qui tam action that alleged medical billing fraud, unnecessary medical treatments, and misdiagnoses of patients. Marder settled that case, agreeing to pay more than $18 million to the United States. Marder was later prosecuted criminally and convicted of health care fraud and obstruction of a criminal health care investigation.

In the lawsuit against the media companies, lawyers for Marder and his practice claimed statements related to their coverage of the qui tam action were false or misleading. In a motion to dismiss those claims, Thomas & LoCicero attorneys argued, among other defenses, that the challenged statements were substantially truthful and fair accounts of court records and protected opinion. The Court agreed, explaining that “defamation is not about compensating for damage done to a false reputation by the publication of hidden facts. It’s about protecting a good reputation honestly earned.”

Thomas & LoCicero attorneys Carol J. LoCicero, Mark R. Caramanica, and Linda R. Norbut represented TEGNA, Gannett and News Corp. The case is styled Gary Marder, et al. v. TEGNA Inc., et al., No. 19-81283-CIV-SMITH, 2020 WL 3496447 (S.D. Fla. June 29, 2020).

With offices in Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, Thomas & LoCicero is a Florida-based firm with a national practice focused on Media and Free Speech, Business Litigation, Intellectual Property & Marketing, and Data Privacy & Security.  Clients benefit from the firm’s extensive knowledge and experience in defamation, complex commercial litigation, business torts, breach of contract, antitrust and unfair competition, invasion of privacy, trademark, and copyright. 

Stagecoaches or newspapers? Jim Lake assesses issues in U.S. Supreme Court social media cases

TLo Wins Marsy’s Law Appeal in Florida Supreme Court

Misleading mailings target trademark owners

Related Articles