Attorney Wesley Paul Sanctioned for Filing a Frivolous Suit

Goldman and Klatz v. Barrett
NYSD Case No. 1:15-cv-09223

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

In November 2015, Drs. Robert M. Goldman and Ronald Klatz filed a lawsuit claiming that an article I wrote and posted to Quackwatch libeled them and interfered with their business enterprises. This article summarizes what the suit was about and links to the relevant court documents.

In December 2000, Goldman and Klatz agreed to pay $5,000 each to the State of Illinois and to stop identifying themselves as M.D.s in Illinois unless authorized to do so by the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation. The official documents indicate that each acquired an "M.D." degree from the Central America Health Sciences University School of Medicine in Belize but was not licensed to use this credential in Illinois. My Quackwatch article, which was dated March 6, 2001, included (a) a text copy of the disciplinary order, (b) a few sentences that accurately summarized what the order said, and (c) a sentence which accurately noted that Goldman and Klatz had been associated for many years in activities related to "anti-aging medicine" and the promotion of dietary supplements. Their suit also named the former nonprofit corporation Quackwatch, Inc., as a defendant even though it was dissolved in 2009.

In New York State, defamation claims must be brought within one year after publication. Attorney Charles A. Michael, who blogs about civil litigation in his federal district court, thought that the suit was preposterous and an attempt to bully me into silence—so much so that his law firm (Steptoe & Johnson) agreed to defend me without charge. His first step was to send a letter to the judge explaining why the suit should be dismissed. The judge then granted permission to file a motion to dismiss, which we did. In August 2016, the judge ruled that (a) my article was not defamatory and (b) the suit was filed too long after the article's publication. He dismissed the suit but gave Goldman and Klatz permission to file an amended complaint.

In October 2016, Goldman and Klatz filed an amended complaint that accused me of making false and defamatory statements to Malaysian and Chinese government officials that caused them to withdraw lucrative proposals to help set up and consult for health facilities in their countries. I have never talked with any such officials or made any false statements about Goldman or Klatz to anyone. Attorney Charles sent a letter to the judge explaining why the amended complaint should be dismissed. We also asked permission to file a motion to sanction Goldman, Klatz, and their attorney (Wesley J. Paul) for having filed and refusing to abandon this factually baseless lawsuit.

In July 2017, the judge dismissed the amended complaint and granted us permission to file a motion to sanction, which we did. In opposing our motion for sanctions, Attorney Paul disclosed an interesting e-mail message he had received in 2015 after complaining about the articles that are the subject of this suit. The message included a list I had compiled of government actions against 19 people who have spoken at conferences held by the American Association of Anti-Aging Medicine, which Goldman and Klatz co-founded and still lead. (See document #46-4, below.)

While the judge was considering our motion for sanctions, Goldman and Klatz appealed the dismissal action to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and we responded. In May 2018, the appeals court upheld the dismissal. In September 2018, after concluding that "the new allegations in the amended complaint were frivolous," the district court judge granted our motion for sanctions and asked my attorneys to submit a brief concerning the proper amount of a sanctions award and on whom that award should be imposed. My attorneys asked for $105,195 for legal fees plus a punitive sanction of $100,000.

In September 2019, the judge ordered Attorney Paul to pay a $10,000 sanction for (a) filing an amended complaint containing "vague and implausible allegations which he had to have known were based on no more than speculation" and (b) failing to drop the suit when confronted with evidence that its claims were untrue. I was disappointed with the amount, but the judge indicated that it was sufficient to deter similar suits.

Court Documents

Date

#

Document
11/24/15 2 Original complaint
12/18/15 9 Pre-motion letter to judge Paul G. Gardephe explaining why the suit should be dismissed
12/23/15 11 Plaintiffs' response to the pre-motion letter
02/16/16 13-14

My motion and law memorandum asking for dismissal of the suit

02/16/16  

My declaration, which included the following attachments:

  • Exhibit B: Licensing status information from Illinois Government Web site
  • Exhibit C: Consent orders for Goldman and Klatz
  • Exhibit E: Documentation that Quackwatch, Inc., was dissolved in 2009
  • Exhibit H: New York Times article titled "Aging: Disease or Business Opportunity?"
02/16/16   Plaintiffs' opposition to the motion to dismiss
02/16/16   Our reply memorandum to plaintiffs' opposition to motion to dismiss
08/24/16 23 Judge's order dismissing the case but permitting an amended complaint to be filed
10/07/16 26 Amended complaint
10/17/16 27 Pre-motion letter to the judge explaining why the amended complaint should be dismissed
11/29/16 32 Memorandum of law in support of my motion to dismiss the amended complaint
12/13/16 33 Plaintiff's memorandum of law opposing my motion to dismiss the amended complaint
12/20/16 34 Our reply memorandum to plaintiff's opposition to motion to dismiss the amended complaint
03/09/17 35 Our letter to the judge asking for permission to file a motion for sanctions
07/25/17 38 Judge's order dismissing the case again
08/11/17 42-1 Memorandum of law in support of my motion for sanctions
09/05/17 45 Opposition to my motion for sanctions
09/05/17 46-4 Exhibit D, Declaration of Attorney Paul: E-mail message from Attorney Michael Botts, Feb 20, 2015.
09/22/17 48 Our reply memorandum to plaintiff's opposition to my motion for sanctions
11/30/17 36 Plaintiff's appeal brief
01/05/18 52 Our reply to plaintiff's appeal brief
05/09/18 64-1 U.S. Court of Appeals order upholding dismissal of the case
09/04/17 57 District Court Judge Gardephe's decision on my motion for sanctions
09/10/18 61 Our submission regarding the proper amount of a sanctions award
09/20/19 69 Court awards $10,000 sanction against attorney Wesley J. Paul

Press Coverage

This article was revised on September 20, 2019.

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