Cornell Scientist Defamation Suit Denied Anti-SLAPP Counterclaim

In 2002, Meena Chandok, a scientist under Daniel Klessig at Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) at Cornell, made exciting discoveries about nitric oxide synthase activity in a plant protein. The findings were published with Klessig in Cell a scientific journal.

After Chandok relocated to Maryland, Klessig began to attempt to replicate her original findings, and could not. Worried about having published the results without an adequate level of reproducibility, he retracted the findings from Cell and discussed the lack of reproducibility with other scientists via email, raising the possibility that Chandok’s original results had been falsified.

In 2006, Chandok responded by suing Klessig for defamation in the federal court in New York. The court found that Chandok, as a limited public figure, had failed to establish that Klessig’s statements were made with malice, and dismissed the suit on summary judgment.

However, the court also denied Klessig’s anti-SLAPP counterclaim, because New York’s anti-SLAPP law protects only statements made in a public application or petition. Therefore, Klessig was unable to recover the fees incurred in defending against the lawsuit.

See Chandok v. Klessig, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 76511 (Aug. 27, 2009).

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