This article about Dr. Eve Switzer’s libel suit against some anti-vaccine activists was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.
Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease.
In early June 2020, Dr. Eve Switzer apparently settled a libel suit that she had filed against an anti-vaccine organization – Oklahoman for Health and Parental Rights – and an anti-vaccine physician, Dr. Jim Meehan from Oklahoma. Both Meehan and the organization both wrote a statement admitting, in essence, that information they posted about Dr. Eve Switzer from Oklahoma was untrue.
While these statements may not seem resounding, they are, in fact, a substantial concession and admission, and part of a settlement of a defamation suit Dr. Switzer brought against these actors that have been settled in her favor. <
Generally, I do not recommend that people turn to defamation suits against anti-vaccine activists. That is because these suits are hard to win under our law (even if there is ground to see the statements as untrue and offensive), any win would take a long time and likely be costly, and the publicity would likely benefit the science denier more than the plaintiff.
Dr. Eve Switzer’s example suggests a different approach can, in some cases, lead to legal success. I still, however, hold to my view that suing is probably not a desirable choice for many of you – this suit was lengthy, not easy, and led to some publicity that I suspect hurt Dr. Switzer.
That said, I am glad that Dr. Switzer’s efforts ended with a settlement that would make it very hard for her attackers to repeat the offensive misrepresentations that led to this suit, and compensated her for her expenses.Read More »Eve Switzer settles her libel suit against Oklahoma anti-vaccine activists