Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Scientist Survives The SLAPP

By Stephen Luntz

Ken Harvey risked expensive litigation to fight the promoters of SensaSlim weight loss products.

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When Dr Ken Harvey lodged a complaint about the so-called complementary medicine SensaSlim he received a SLAPP in return. Not an act of physical violence, although one colleague was threatened, but a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation – in this case a defamation action.

It didn’t matter that what Harvey was saying was manifestly true and in the public interest. The manufacturers of SensaSlim didn’t see why they should stop making millions just because their product didn’t work and might be harmful.

Most SLAPP suits are issued in the hope the activist will surrender or be impeded. SensaSlim’s marketers had an additional motive: the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) cannot complete a product investigation while a case is before the courts. By suing Harvey, SensaSlim bought time to peddle their useless wares.

Colleagues contributed money to Harvey’s legal costs, and the Australian Skeptics organised a fighting fund so “in the end I was not out of pocket,” he says. When a distributor attempted an even more outrageous abuse of process, suing Harvey in a separate jurisdiction after the first case failed, the law firm Morris Blackburn defended him pro bono.

Harvey had pointed to SensaSlim’s claims of “Clinical Proof... SensaSlim is the most effective slimming solution available in the world today”. The touted trial of “11,453 people...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.