LA Times Responds to Latest 1-800-GET-THIN Complaint

Ahead of a scheduled August 1 hearing, the LA Times has filed a July 11 response to the latest accusations made in U.S. District Court by marketing company 1-800-GET-THIN LLC. Among the dozens of legal precedents cited by the newspaper’s attorneys are cases involving the New York Times, Miami Herald, the Chicago Tribune, and Hearst Corporation.

In a previous document footnote, the LA Times suggested that surgeon brothers Julian and Michael Omidi, who advertise their Beverly Hills lap-band weight loss procedure services through 1-800-GET-THIN, engage in “scorched-earth litigation” against anyone who criticizes their “surgery-mill business.” The July 11 main argument summary section put forth by Times attorneys begins as follows:

In its increasingly desperate bid to keep some lawsuit alive against the Times defendants, plaintiff is asking this court to permit it to file yet another amended complaint—this time, to add wholly frivolous anti-trust and RICO claims against the Times, reporter Stuart Pfeifer, and columnist Michael Hiltzik; and to drastically rewrite its baseless Lanham Act claims to allege the same convoluted “advertising conspiracy” theory that was already addressed in the parties’ briefing on defendants pending motion to dismiss… Their “Whack-a-Mole” legal strategy should be stopped…

Lawyers for the Times also note that even though the plaintiffs name 29 new pseudonymous web posters as defendants, “only two of the twenty-nine defendants even mention 1-800-Get-Thin in their comments.”

Brian Oxman, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told FishbowlLA that “the Times has absolutely refused to disclose the identity of those web posters. The editorial and blogging guidelines on say that their identities are not protected, that there is no right to privacy as to who you are when you comment on the Times website. Yet when we ask who they are, ‘Oh no, we can’t disclose that.'”

The 1-800 side is claiming that reporter Hiltzik impersonated others in the comments section. Says Oxman: “The people who are involved with us are telling me it is absolutely Michael Hiltzik. Exactly what they have done [to prove this], I don’t know the details.”

However, a previous filing by LA Times attorneys dated May 9, 2011 categorically refuted such claims. “Plaintiffs allege that [website] comments posted by defendants SNAPSHOTS, Adrian-Dallas, neoserf and dalefogden were actually made by Michael Hiltzik… This is false,” the filing states. “The plaintiffs do not identify any unknown defendants as Mr. Hiltzik, nor could it under Rule 11. Moreover, the statements attributed to these defendants under plaintiffs second, third, fifth, and seventh causes of action are statements of opinion and/or rhetorical hyperbole, which are not actionable.”

Previously on FishbowlLA:
No Love Lost in Crazy LA Times Lawsuit