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Judge tosses defamation suit against vaccination doctor

A $1-million defamation suit against a leading advocate of child vaccination was dismissed yesterday by Alexandria U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton who ruled the physician’s statement “she lies,” in reference to an anti-vaccination advocate, was not actionable.

The lawsuit pitted two high-profile leaders in the controversy over vaccinations. The plaintiff, Barbara Arthur, is acting president of the National Vaccine Information Center and a longtime critic of mandatory childhood vaccinations. The lead defendant, Paul Offit, M.D., is a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Pennsylvania.

Arthur sued over an article in Wired magazine in which Offit dismissed Arthur’s criticism with the flat statement, “She lies.” Hilton found the statement to be mere rhetorical hyperbole:

Against this contextual backdrop, the declaration “she lies” is plainly understood as an outpouring of exasperation and intellectual outrage over Plaintiff’s ability to gain traction for ideas that Defendant Offit believes are seriously misguided, and not as a literal assertion of fact.

Offit was represented  by John McGavin of Fairfax. Arthur’s counsel was Jonathan Emord of Clifton.

By Peter Vieth

One comment

  1. Well, I guess Obama does not have a case against “you lie” Joe Wilson. In any event, truth is an absolute defense towards libel.

    But in all seriousness, something is wrong here. Dr. Offit had to break his busy schedule to find an attorney, explain the situation, sign papers, undoubtedly pay significant legal fees, for a Pyrrhic victory. Even when a case is dismissed as a matter of law, the shock of getting served with papers and dealing with the legal abyss is disconcerting.

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