September 1996 AAOS Report

Dismisses claims against Academy in pedicle screw case; allows new filing

Judge Louis C. Bechtle of the U.S. District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania has dismissed complaints against the Academy and four other medical societies in the multidistrict litigation on pedicle screws. However, the Plaintiffs Legal Committee (PLC) has until Sept. 30, 1996 to refile new or amended complaints. The complaints against the medical associations alleged fraud in the marketplace, conspiracy, aiding and abetting, concerted action and enterprise liability. Judge Bechtle, in his Aug. 22, 1996 order, stated the PLC's "complaints are pleaded so imprecisely that the court is uncertain as to whether it has subject matter jurisdiction." Rather than dismiss the complaints "with prejudice" which would have barred the PLC from pursuing further litigation, Judge Bechtle wrote, "It is simply not fair to preclude hundreds of plaintiffs from forever pursuing a conspiracy claim because the drafter of the ... complaint form failed to meet the standards that the court requires in drafting the complaint." Judge Bechtle's order listed requirements for refiling the complaints and warned the attorneys not to deviate or he would dismiss the complaints "with prejudice." The complaints were dismissed against the Academy, North American Spine Society, American Association of Neurological Surgeons, Congress of Neurological Surgeons, and Scoliosis Research Society. The associations earlier filed a motion to dismiss the complaints arguing the plaintiffs' allegations did not state legally recognizable claims and were barred by the freedom of speech clauses of the First and 14th Amendments in the Constitution. Judge Bechtle said the associations could raise the freedom of speech defense again if the PLC opts to refile new or amended complaints.

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