The Consumerist reports that late last year, an olive oil industry trade group sued TV’s Dr. Oz, claiming the talk show host had made disparaging statements about the quality and purity of its members’ products.
The North American Olive Oil Association alleged that Oz and his guests on the show — including one employed by a California olive oil company – “made a series of false statements regarding the quality and purity of olive oil sold in supermarkets in the United States, including but not limited to imported olive oil.”
According to the lawsuit, Oz’s statements weren’t based on “reasonable or reliable scientific inquiry, facts or data,” and were made to promote California olive oils instead.
But a judge in Fulton County Superior Court in Atlanta disagreed, saying the court “was not convinced” the show disparaged imported olive oil or falsely labeled it as a “health Hazard.”
Judge Alford J. Dempsey Jr. said he also had “grave concerns that the motivation for the present action falls directly within the purpose of the anti-SLAPP statute as an attempt to chill speech, in this case, in the competitive marketplace.”
SLAPP refers to “strategic lawsuits against public participation,” meaning allegedly frivolous legal actions where the goal is to prevent the defendant from freely expressing themselves.
NAOOA tells Consumerist that it’s disappointed with the judge’s decision, saying that it wasn’t based on the underlying merits of the group’s case but “on technicalities in the Georgia anti-SLAPP statute, which protect media defendants.”
“Nothing in the decision lends credence to the unsubstantiated attacks on olive oil made on The Dr. Oz segment, and we are evaluating our options for appeal,” a spokeswoman told Consumerist. “Our goal was and remains to help consumers get the facts about heart-healthy olive oil, and we will continue to explore every means at our disposal to correct the record.”
A representative for the Dr. Oz show said they’re “thrilled” about the judge’s decision.