Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Federal Judge Yanks Dentist's Libel Suit

English: Looking northeast from Old Ferry Road...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York Senior Judge Carol Amon last week dismissed a defamation claim against authorities, including former state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, brought by a dentist acquitted of Medicaid fraud.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Web site (www.rcfp.org) reported on the case, Morse v. Spitzer et al. (Case No. 07-cv-4793) in which plaintiff Dr. Leonard Morse filed a 105-page civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983 that included counts alleging defamation and malicious prosecution. Trial is slated to begin Jan. 28 regarding Morse's claim that he was denied the right to a fair trial.

Dr. Morse, who was acquitted of larceny charges in 2007, grounded his defamation claim against prosecutors in a press release authorities provided the news media concerning the dentist's indictment alleging a "million dollar Medicaid theft." The plaintiff contended that the contents of the press release exceeded the scope of charges contained in the indictment, including, for example, an allegation that the dentist billed Medicaid for making dentures for patients who did not wear dentures.

The court in its 14-page ruling, however, was unimpressed by the defamatory dentures allegation, noting that the inaccurate assertion did not make the press release's allegations that Dr. Morse billed the government for services he did not perform false, an essential element in proving a defamation claim. "The plain import of the press release," Judge Amon wrote, "was exactly that: that Morse was being accused of submitting claims to the state for services not rendered."

In other words, in dental defamation suits, tooth is a defense.
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