To: "Health Freedom,Codex Issues"
Subject: "Quackbuster" Loss in Court Reported by Chicago Tribune: Internet Libel Suit Tossed Out: Will Barrett Be Forced to Pay Court Costs?
From: "I A H F" firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Sat, 09 Mar 2002 16:21:36 -0500
IAHF List: Check out this article from the Chicago Tribune
How long can Barrett continue to absorb this kind of a pounding before he just packs it in and realizes he cannot beat the Health Freedom Movement? How much longer will anyone remain behind him when he keeps getting beat in court this way? He says he's going to appeal, but how can he appeal after being beaten this badly? Are the days of the so called "Quackbusters" coming to an end? If you wish to comment on this to Barrett, his email address is email@example.com and he can be reached in Allentown PA by phone at (610) 437-1795
By Ted Gregory
Tribune staff reporter
Published March 9, 2002
A judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the protection given Web site operators that distribute allegedly defamatory material.
In tossing out the complaint by a critic of alternative medicine who claimed the Web sites libeled him by posting his detractors' opinions, DuPage County Circuit Judge Hollis Webster followed similar rulings in other states.
In explaining her ruling, Webster said the federal Communications Decency Act protects distributors of allegedly defamatory material on the Internet.
"Our federal lawmakers have determined that a national, consistent law protecting Web sites upon which allegedly defamatory statements are published from civil liability is appropriate," Webster said in her decision issued Wednesday. "This court will remain consistent with the courts in other states, and on the federal level in interpreting the Communications Decency Act."
Stephen Barrett, a retired Pennsylvania psychiatrist who has fought what he regards as quackery for three decades, filed the lawsuit July 30 against Owen Fonorow, a Lisle man who operates a Web site advocating alternative treatment for heart disease. Barrett claimed that Fonorow libeled him by posting articles, not written by Fonorow, suggesting Barrett is a liar, an extortionist and delusional. Barrett has filed numerous lawsuits in the U.S. and Canada against his critics.
Fonorow's attorneys argued that federal law protects distributors of potentially libelous material. The Communications Decency Act states that "no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."
Attorney Zachary Lawrence, who represents Fonorow, called Barrett's suit, "shooting the messenger. It's trying to block the dissemination of information by shutting down the newsstands and bookstores, and that's wrong.
"It's the same thing as if you tried to punish the phone company for somebody saying something nasty on the phone," Lawrence said. "It just isn't right."
Lawrence said he would ask the court to order Barrett to pay Fonorow's legal bills and impose other financial sanctions. Barrett's attorney, Mark Cisek, suggested in court that he would appeal the dismissal, though he declined to comment after the hearing. Cisek also represents Barrett in his libel complaint pending in Cook County Circuit Court against Joseph Mercola, a Schaumburg osteopathic physician.
Webster's decision reflects a ruling July 25 in a similar lawsuit Barrett filed in California. Alameda County Superior Court Judge James A. Richman cited the Communications Decency Act in dismissing one of the defendants who had posted material critical of Barrett.