December 1997 AAOS Report

Petition to dismiss medical societies from pedicle screw litigation denied

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has denied the petition for a writ of mandamus in the multidistrict pedicle screw litigation. The petition had been filed by the Academy, American Association of Neurological Surgeons, North American Spine Society and Scoliosis Research Society, and sought to reverse Judge Louis Bechtle's decision in April 1997 not to dismiss the medical societies from the litigation. The Third Circuit Court found before a writ of mandamus could be issued, two conditions must be met: (1) the petitioner-medical societies must show a "clear and indisputable right" to the writ, and (2) the petitioner-medical societies must have no adequate means to attain the relief desired. The appellate panel determined that the pedicle screw litigation essentially was in the pleading stages, at which all facts as pleaded must be taken as true. As a result, the court held that the right of the petitioner-medical societies to prevail was "not clear and indisputable." The court also found because discovery was nearing completion and due to a large number of cases that were soon to be remanded to the court in which they originally were filed, the petitioner-medical societies would soon be able to file summary judgment motions, which would be considered under standards more favorable to the societies. The Academy and other medical societies will continue to vigorously defend these cases. "We believe that scientific and medical progress is being jeopardized by legal actions that would curtail the free flow of information," said William W. Tipton Jr., MD, Academy executive vice president. "If the plaintiffs' litigation is successful, all medical associations, universities and other organizations will find their ability to educate is strangled by the fear of litigation."


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