On April 11, 2022, the California Court of Appeal affirmed a trial court’s decision to impose $344 million in civil penalties on a medical-device manufacturer for disseminating fully protected scientific speech. The decision was a setback for WLF, which filed an amicus brief in the case urging reversal or vacatur. Imposing a penalty larger than all other reported California awards combined, the trial court found that every communication the defendants made about Ethicon’s pelvic-mesh products—whether to doctors or patients, written or verbal—violated California law. Yet as the State conceded on the first day of trial, the “scientific propositions” about pelvic mesh are “very much in dispute” here. In its amicus brief, WLF argued that the trial court erred by imposing liability without considering the First Amendment, which shields reasonably debatable scientific claims from liability. WLF’s brief also contended that allowing the trial-court’s judgment to stand would irreparably chill scientific speech on vital matters of public health. WLF’s brief was filed with the pro bono assistance of Peter Choate and Mollie Benedict of Tucker Ellis LLP in Los Angeles.

Documents

WLF brief