A Jackson Walker team led by Houston partners Charles L. Babcock, John K. Edwards, and William A.I. (Trey) McDonald obtained a complete dismissal of a high-stakes 2016 class action suit filed against clients Dr. Mehmet Oz, his production company ZoCo Productions, Harpo Productions, and Sony Pictures Television (the “Media Defendants”).
The suit, filed in a California federal court, claimed fraud, negligence, and violation of California and New York consumer protection and advertising laws based on three episodes of The Dr. Oz Show that touted the generic weight loss supplements Garcinia Cambogia and Green Coffee Bean Extract.
Shortly after the suit was filed, the Media Defendants filed a motion to dismiss under the California anti-SLAPP law, but the plaintiffs convinced the Court to defer hearing the motion until after discovery was completed. The Media Defendants also filed a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule 12(b)(6), which was granted as to Sony Pictures Television but otherwise denied.
The case progressed slowly for four years, and in early 2020 the Court entered a tight scheduling order that required expert reports within two weeks and discovery within four weeks. The Jackson Walker team finalized production of documents and discovery responses, completion of 16 depositions, and filed a motion for summary judgment within the deadline set by the Court.
In a hearing on March 16, 2020, the judge determined that the anti-SLAPP motion would be heard since discovery had closed. In California, when an anti-SLAPP motion is granted, attorneys’ fees are mandatory to the successful movant. Because they deferred the anti-SLAPP motion until after discovery, the plaintiffs were exposed to substantial attorneys’ fees that were incurred after four years of litigation. Knowing this, and because of the strength of the Media Defendants’ motions for summary judgment and anti-SLAPP, the plaintiffs agreed to dismiss their claims in their entirety with prejudice.
The plaintiffs then filed a stipulation of dismissal on March 27, 2020, and stipulated that the Media Defendants would not pay any money to the plaintiffs and would not pay them anything in the future – no money was, in fact, paid directly or indirectly through an insurance carrier.
“We were pleased to help the Media Defendants achieve a terrific result within a tight timeframe,” Chip said. “The dismissal of all claims against the Media Defendants reflects the hard work of our clients and the team to complete discovery and file such a strong motion for summary judgment in an incredibly short time.”
“The dismissal of all claims against the Media Defendants reflects the hard work of our clients and the team to complete discovery and file such a strong motion for summary judgment in an incredibly short time.”
In addition to Chip Babcock, John Edwards, and Trey McDonald, the Jackson Walker team included Dallas attorney Carl C. Butzer, Houston attorneys Mary Lou Flynn-Dupart, Jennifer Caughey, and Jennifer A. Bryant, and Austin attorney Adam Aston.
Founded in 1887, Jackson Walker continues to advance the world of business by helping companies of all sizes navigate today’s increasingly complex, interconnected legal landscape. With over one-third of the Firm’s more than 400 attorneys practicing litigation, JW has one of the largest trial practices in the Southwest and has been recognized as a National Tier 1-ranked “Best Law Firm” in the area of First Amendment litigation for nine consecutive years. To explore the Firm’s experience representing entities and individuals in media- and communications-related litigation, as well as pre-publication concerns, visit our Trial & Appellate Litigation, Media, and Media Litigation practice pages.