Lanny Davis fires back at 3M with anti-SLAPP motion

Michael P. Tremoglie Oct. 11, 2011, 8:15am


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - Former Clinton advisor and prominent Washington D.C. attorney Lanny Davis returned fire in a legal battle being waged between he and 3M company.

Davis filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit 3M filed in the D.C. federal court against Davis under D.C.'s anti-"SLAPP" statute.

Blank Rome, Davis's attorneys, filed the motion Oct. 6 to seek a ruling that 3M had attempted to thwart his right to speak on an important public health matter by filing a tactical lawsuit.

The District of Columbia's "SLAPP" statute (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) is designed to prevent the filing of legal actions that intimidate and thwart criticism or exposure of public risks by individuals engaging in protected speech.

The statute permits the recovery of attorneys' fees incurred by the party filing the motion. 3M, by its attorneys at Bickel & Brewer, filed a defamation case against Davis on Aug. 24 in the U.S. District Court for Washington D.C., claiming that he and others conspired to unlawfully coerce 3M into paying tens of millions of dollars in a United Kingdom breach of contract case.

The alleged coercion included a public relations campaign by Davis that 3M claims "featured a barrage of disparaging and defamatory statements." 3M's allegations stem from a breach of contract lawsuit Davis's clients filed in London against 3M Company in late 2008.

Davis claims 3M's suit concerns the company's failure to obtain U.S. F.D.A. regulatory approval of the product BacLite, which had been approved by European Union regulators after clinical studies found the product was 95 percent reliable in detecting the presence or absence of the "super‐bug" staph infection, MRSA.

The motion states, "once the target of such bullying makes a prima facie showing that the claims at issue arise from acts in furtherance of the right of advocacy on issues of public interest, a plaintiff such as 3M can only avoid dismissal by establishing its claims are likely to succeed on the merits...Davis's statements fit squarely within the statute's purview and the likelihood that 3M can prevail on the merits of its claim is nil."

The motion continues to say that the SLAPP statute issues must arise from acts in furtherance of the right of advocacy on issues of public interest. Davis maintains his statements meet these tests.

The other issue in the statute addressed in the motion is that 3M can only avoid dismissal by establishing that its claims are likely to succeed on the merits.

Davis' motion states, "the likelihood that 3M can prevail on its defamation claim against Davis with respect to each category ranges from slim to none."

The motion alleges that 3M must meet the higher public figure standard of a defamation case.

Davis believes 3M's complaint will be dismissed.

"3M's lawsuit attempting to silence and intimidate the private attorney representing its opponent in litigation is a textbook SLAPP suit," said Ray Mullady, Jr., an attorney for Davis.

"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," he said.

3M fired back.

"Our client views this as another desperate attempt to deflect from the merits of the lawsuit it filed against Mr. Davis," said William A. Brewer III, partner at Bickel & Brewer and counsel for 3M.

"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."

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