Tobinick v. Novella

May 31, 2016

Dr. Edward Tobinick sued Dr. Steven Novella for unfair competition, trade libel, and libel per se in federal court after Novella published two online articles about what Novella believed were Tobinick's unproven practice of treating Alzheimer's disease and strokes with the drug Embrel. Tobinick also sued Novella under the Lanham Act for the same publications. The Reporters Committee, with 24 other media organizations, filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit arguing the District Court properly dismissed Tobinick's state claims under the California anti-SLAPP statute and federal claims under the Lanham Act. The brief asserts the District Court correctly applied the California anti-SLAPP statute in federal court because the statute does not conflict with the federal rules and is a substantive protection, not a procedural rule. Further, applying anti-SLAPP statutes in federal court protects speakers from frivolous lawsuits and reduces chilling effects. The brief also contends the District Court appropriately found Novella's speech to be noncommercial speech and thus shielded from Lanham Act liability under the First Amendment.