Updated 4:52 p.m.
Attorneys for Washington lawyer Lanny Davis have filed an anti-SLAPP motion in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against 3M, alleging that the company is attempting to snuff Davis’ First Amendment right of free speech.
SLAPPs are suits brought with the purpose of chilling protected free speech. Anti-SLAPP advocates allege such suits are designed to drain defendants' pocketbooks until they cease the speech in question.
The motion (PDF), filed late Thursday, stems from a defamation suit filed against Davis, of Lanny J. Davis & Associates, by 3M’s attorney, William Brewer III of Bickel & Brewer, in D.C. Federal Court. Brewer splits his time between the firm’s Dallas and New York City offices. The defamation suit is related to public statements Davis made in his representation of Porton Capital.
Porton Capital and the U.K. Ministry of Defense have sued 3M in London’s High Court, alleging that the conglomerate botched testing of an infectious disease rapid detection kit called BacLite and failed to develop the product, which has been used successfully across the pond. The technology, developed by the Ministry of Defense and Porton, detects Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a strain of staph bacteria resistant to antibiotics commonly used to treat the infection.
3M bought BacLite in 2007 and was contractually required to develop the technology for the U.S. market. Porton and the Ministry of Defense were due to receive royalties from the sale of 3M’s U.S. product. In 2008, 3M chose not to seek the approval of the Food and Drug Administration, after clinical trials performed showed results of 55 percent accuracy, lower than the 95 percent rate tested in the U.K. and E.U.
“We are hopeful that the High Court will reach a conclusion that 3M breached the contract and did so without a reasonable basis,” Porton CEO Harvey Boulter said in a written statement.
The defamation suit was filed after Davis challenged 3M to make public the results of the clinical study that the company said made them abandon further development during a May 11 press conference in Minneapolis. The court now has to decide if the defamation suit falls under the category of an anti-SLAPP case. If so, then 3M would carry the burden of proof to show that they would succeed on the merits of the underlying claim.
“3M’s lawsuit attempting to silence and intimidate the private attorney representing its opponent in litigation is a textbook SLAPP suit,” Raymond Mulladay, Jr., Davis’ attorney, said in a written statement. “Fortunately, in the District of Columbia, the wealthy and powerful cannot use abusive, SLAPP suits to target individuals who exercise their right to engage in a public dialogue.”
3M’s attorney, Brewer, called the motion a futile, last-ditch effort by Davis.
“Our client views this as another desperate attempt to deflect from the merits of the lawsuit it filed against Mr. Davis,” Brewer said in a written statement. “Needless to say, we understand completely why Mr. Davis will make any and all attempts to avoid having his conduct and that of his clients scrutinized. We think that this, together with the other actions he has made, will be unavailing.”