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.