May 1997 AAOS Report

Judge denies motion to dismiss conspiracy charges

Judge Louis Bechtle in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Philadelphia has denied motions to dismiss conspiracy allegations against the Academy and other medical associations named in the pedicle screw multidistrict litigation. The Academy, American Association of Neurological Surgeons, North American Spine Society and Scoliosis Research Society will vigorously appeal the ruling issued on April 16. The associations are accused of having participated in an "intercompany/association conspiracy" to "promote, market, distribute and sell devices intended for use as pedicle screw fixations...through deceptive and misleading means," including holding workshops, conferences and symposia for which the medical associations received "significant financial compensation." The associations asserted in their motion to dismiss that seminars at which pedicle screws were discussed were forums for continuing medical education which are protected under the free speech branch of the First Amendment. The Plaintiffs Legal Committee (PLC) contends that such seminars were "sales events." Judge Bechtle ruled that the speech at the seminars was commercial speech and that "commercial speech that is false, deceptive or misleading is not protected by the First Amendment." The judge also denied the associations' assertions that the PLC had failed to state a claim under the state law that governs each separate civil action. The judge granted the associations' motion to dismiss conspiracy claims based on allegations of false statements being submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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