Andrew Wakefield takes to the courts again

5 Jan

Andrew Wakefield, one of the doctors who was stricken from the register by the U.K.’s General Medical Council, has filed a complaint in Texas claiming that Brian Deer (Journalist) and Fiona Godlee (Editor of the British Medical Journal). The complaint alleges that the articles, editorials and statements made later about those include “false and defamatory allegations” about Mr. Wakefield.

From the complaint filed:

This defamation lawsuit arises, in part, out of the publication on or about January 5, 2011 and thereafter, in the British Medical Journal, of an article authored for the BMJ by Brian Deer, titled Secrets of the MMR Scare (Exhibit A) and accompanying editorials by the BMJ’s editor, Fiona Godlee (Exhibit B 1-2). Defendants’ article and editorials, distributed to subscribers in Texas and which fonn the basis of Plaintiffs claims, contained unfair, incorrect, inaccurate and unjust criticisms of findings previously reported by Dr. Wakefield and 12 other co-authors. More significantly, Defendants accused Dr. Wakefield of fraud and of fraudulently and intentionally manipulating and falsifying data and diagnoses in connection with a clinical paper he co-authored called Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children, originally published in the medical journal The Lancet in 1998 (the “Lance,t Paper”). Defendants’ false and defamatory allegations have been widely disseminated by Defendants through the BMJ and other sources since their original publication.

Mr. Wakefield sued Mr. Deer in the past, but dropped that suit.

Mr. Wakefield’s legal team consists of William M. Parrish, J.D. Ellwanger, John D. Saba Jr of DiNovo Price Ellwanger & Hardy LLP, a firm which primarily focused on intellectual property and commercial litigation.

Mr. Wakefield does not specify an amount for damages:

Dr. Wakefield hereby prays for a trial by jury as to all disputed issues of fact, and upon findings appropriate, further prays for judgment from this Court against the Defendants for: nominal damages, actual and compensatory damages, special damages, including injury to reputation and character, injury to feelings, humiliation, loss of earning capacity, exemplary damages pursuant to TEX. CIv. PRAC. & REM. CODE §41.001, et. seq., declaratory relief, costs and expenses, prejudgment and post-judgment interest as allowed by law, and for such other and further relief to which he may be justly entitled.

Should this go to court, Mr. Wakefield, In arguing a “injury to reputation and character, injury to feelings, humiliation, loss of earning capacity, will have to quantify the state of his reputation and character, feelings, humiliation and loss of earning capacity at the time. This will have to take into account the fact that he had already been struck off the medical register in the UK after being found to have committed “serious professional misconduct” and had lost his job at Thoughtful House. Were the donors to the “Strategic Autism Initiative” less likely to contribute after the BMJ articles?

Honestly, I thought the Andrew Wakefield saga was over and I was glad of it.

24 Responses to “Andrew Wakefield takes to the courts again”

  1. Julian Frost January 5, 2012 at 08:19 #

    I couldn’t help noticing that Wakefield fails to mention the specific portions of the articles that are libellous, and fails to give his version of events.

  2. Craig Payne January 5, 2012 at 10:25 #

    Can anyone tell me why he filed in Texas? I not sure I understand the law. If the BMJ is in the UK, what has that got to do with a Texas court? Why not file in Sydney or Tokyo or Montreal or …?

  3. Neuroskeptic January 5, 2012 at 10:55 #

    “Honestly, I thought the Andrew Wakefield saga was over”

    So did he – and he couldn’t let that happen – hence this!

    Wakefield is vaccines-autism now. That is his only career, his very identity. If he’s not in the public eye doing that (and since losing his job at TH, he’s not) he is nothing.

  4. navi January 5, 2012 at 12:58 #

    Filed in tx bc that is where he lives, or at least lived at the time.

  5. Emily Willingham January 5, 2012 at 16:29 #

    I think he filed in TX because that’s where his attorney, William Parrish, is licensed to practice. That attorney, by the way, lives 0.2 miles from Wakefield in a very exclusive Austin neighborhood.I’ve almost no doubt that’s why the attorney is on this filing. It would take a close association to compromise sufficiently to take such a wall-eyed case as this one on. Orac also finds an Anna Parrish associated with Carmel Wakefield et al. on an autism board. Tight community, overall.

  6. Anne January 5, 2012 at 18:45 #

    He filed in Texas because that’s where he lives. The defendants will contest whether the Texas court has jurisdiction over them, I’m sure.

    • Sullivan January 5, 2012 at 18:49 #

      Mr Wakefield had the option of filing with the U.K. press complaints commission, as he had in the past. I am fairly sure he could have availed himself of the civil courts in the U.K.

      Popehat has a discussion of the legal implications of using the Texas courts

      • Sullivan January 5, 2012 at 19:14 #

        Julian Frost is correct–the comment below was for a different article.

        Funny, I too have worked as an editor on peer reviewed journals. As has at least one of the authors of the Korean study.

        She makes a very strange statement: “Reliance on expert clinical judgement is all very well, “

        Clinical judgement is the gold standard for such work. And multiple clinicians agreed. In general, the problems with clinical judgement come in where individuals are placed on the spectrum, not whether they belong in the spectrum at all.

  7. Julian Frost January 5, 2012 at 19:44 #

    Sullivan, I think your last comment was supposed to be on the Simons Foundation article.

  8. Liz Ditz January 5, 2012 at 20:23 #

    As I often do,I’m keeping a list…

    Andrew Wakefield’s Latest Legal Action: Roundup

    Where oh where are the Wakefield followers? Why is there nothing at Age of Autism?

  9. Neuroskeptic January 6, 2012 at 11:03 #

    I think even Age of Autism are ashamed to be seen in public with Wakefield now.

  10. _Arthur January 6, 2012 at 14:46 #

    Deer accused Mr. Wakefield of having fraudulently manipulated data in his The Lancet Article.

    For his defense, Deer can also mention:
    -The article has been retracted by The Lancet
    -The article contained gross misrepresentations in its very first paragraph
    – Dr. – Wakefield failed to disclose his gross conflict of interest.

    And that’s just for starters.

  11. Prometheus January 7, 2012 at 22:00 #

    The first indication I had that Wakefield’s 1998 Lancet article might be fraudulent was when I learnt that many of the subjects had been referred from a solicitor’s office and were not – as the article had claimed – consecutive patients referred to the GI clinic with a diagnosis of autism and GI problems. For me, all the rest of the story was postscript.

    I would truly love to have the BMJ forego the option to have the case dismissed on grounds of jurisdiction and/or SLAPP and procede directly to trial. I suspect that this lawsuit is nothing more than a ploy to show Wakefield “defending his honour” without having to risk actually losing the case.

    When (not if) the suit is dismissed, he will undoubtedly proclaim that he was cheated out of his day in court “on a technicality”. By denying Wakefield his “escape clause”, the BMJ lawyers could force him to either drop his suit or lose it in open court.

    This lawsuit is nothing more than “bread and circuses” for his disheartened and restive followers.


  12. Catherina January 8, 2012 at 11:58 #

    Prometheus – I got this from a Mumsnet Wakefield supporter:

    According to his confidantes, whom are my friends on facebook, he won’t be dropping this one – its time for the lies and the liars to be called on it.

    So it seems you share your wish that this go to trial with Wakefield.

  13. Science Mom January 8, 2012 at 16:51 #

    According to his confidantes, whom are my friends on facebook, he won’t be dropping this one – its time for the lies and the liars to be called on it.

    Hello Catherina. Didn’t Wakefield demand a GMC inquiry and how did that work out for him?

  14. natasa778 January 9, 2012 at 18:31 #

    Everyone remotely interested in MMR_Wakefield_BMJ_Deer saga must read this report by Dr Lewis:

    Click to access david-lewis-bmj.pdf

    Dr. David Lewis, internationally known whistleblower and respected expert on institutional fraud, released a report today calling for a formal investigation into the practices of the British Medical Journal (BMJ), and specifically into the actions of its editor, Dr. Fiona Godlee, and Brian Deer, a reporter she hired to write a series of articles …

    “To support their new fraud theory, Godlee, Deer, and the BMJ’s lawyers engaged in the most reprehensible conduct I have ever witnessed involving any scientific journal” (p3 of the filed report by Dr Lewis, linked above)”

    • Sullivan January 9, 2012 at 20:05 #


      Having skimmed over the document by Mr. Lewis, I remain unimpressed. One year, full time, and all he can do is put out a weak attempt at addressing one portion of the myriad problems with the research behind the Lancet study?

      ““To support their new fraud theory, Godlee, Deer, and the BMJ’s lawyers engaged in the most reprehensible conduct I have ever witnessed involving any scientific journal””

      Nice opinion. Nice accusation. Those are easy to throw around Too bad he doesn’t find administering invasive procedures to disabled children for research purposes reprehensible conduct.

      “Let´s wait and see shall we?”

      Strange comment. We don’t have a choice. But this begs the question–why come here and advertise for the Age of Autism blog if we are supposed to just “wait and see”?

      You obviousl know very little about the UK system. The GMC is a tool of the Public Health deoartment of the UK Goverment. It is not a Court of Law.
      Wakefield has wisely chosen to defend himself in the US.

      I know enough to realize that the document that Mr. Lewis has put so much time and effort in to analyzing was available for Mr. Wakefield in his defense at the GMC. I know this because I’ve read the transcripts. More accurately, in this case, I searched them.

      I also realize that the UK libel system is much more plaintiff friendly than is the U.S. system.

      Mr. Wakefield had better have much (MUCH) more than Mr. Lewis’ work if he hopes to prosecute this claim. Even if you assume Mr. Lewis is correct (and I have no doubt that the readership of AoA does)he doesn’t address the myriad other issues presented by the BMJ and Mr. Deer. Mr. Lewis claims “Collectively, the documents described above establish beyond any reasonable doubt that the initial fraud theory that the BMJ published in 2010 is untrue. Namely, Dr. Wakefielddid not intentionally misinterpret the grading sheets provided by Prof. Dhillon and Dr. Anthony in order to fabricate the diagnosis of colitis reported in the Lancet study.”

      Given a year of full time effort, why didn’t Mr. Lewis read the BMJ articles? Obviously that is sarcasm, but given a year’s effort, why didn’t he even attempt to address anything but a small portion of the claims put forth by the BMJ and Mr. Deer? For example: the fact that many of the children showed signs of developmental disability before their MMR vaccination.

  15. Chris January 9, 2012 at 19:05 #

    natasa778, actually that is old news, and is thoroughly discussed at:

    So, what do you think of the Royal Free autism studies that came out between 1999 and 2003?

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  1. Anti-SLAPP motion moves forward in Wakefield v. BMJ et al. « Left Brain Right Brain - July 13, 2012

    […] January of this year Andrew Wakefield filed a defamation suit against the BMJ (British Medical Journal), Brian Deer (journalist) and Fiona Godlee (editor BMJ). […]

  2. Andrew Wakefield loses frivolous defamation lawsuit. To pay court costs. | Left Brain Right Brain - September 19, 2014

    […] after those were published, Andrew Wakefield took issue with his work being declared fraudulent and sued for defamation. Not in the UK, where the laws are very favorable to him. No, instead he chose his home state of […]

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