Doctor denied dismissal of suit alleging defamation of hemp CBD oil 'Charlotte’s Web'

By Elizabeth Alt | Jun 28, 2018

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Fort Myers U.S. District Court dismissed a doctor’s motion to throw out a suit filed against him and others alleging that their defamation of the hemp based cannabidiol oil “Charlotte’s Web” has reduced its profits to zero. 

The court order was written by Judge John E. Steele and denied Dr. Joseph Dorn's motion to dismiss a lawsuit against him, Television anchors and Waterman Broadcasting in a segment run on WBBH-TV in Fort Myers allegedly defamed a hemp based cannabidiol oil being sold on Groupon.

AFI Holdings LLC, doing business as Happy Leaves Inc., filed a complaint alleging Dorn, TV anchors Lisa Spooner and Peter Busch, reporter Graham Hunter and Waterman Broadcasting “defamed AFI and disparaged its product" during a 2016 segment on WBBH-TV. 

AFI is a distributor for hemp oil extract Charlotte’s Web, manufactured by CW Hemp, Inc. Charlotte’s Web’s active ingredient is cannabidiol oil, or CBD. Hemp-based CBD oils have a very small percentage of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC and does not fall under the “cannabis” category in Florida law. 

On July 1, 2016, WBBH-TV ran a segment where AFI alleges Spooner, Busch, Hunter and Dorn made false statements and suggestions about its product to sensationalize the story. AFI alleges the defendants said Charlotte’s Web “pot” or “medical marijuana” could be purchased on Groupon via AFI and made various statements to imply “that AFI was violating Florida law by selling Charlotte’s Web in Florida via Groupon.”

AFI grossed $75,000 in sales of Charlotte's Web in June 2016. After the WBBH-TV segment aired, Groupon stopped selling Charlotte’s Web on their site. AFI seeks damages of $1.2 million. 

Dorn argued in his motion to dismiss that his statement “somebody like this, they’re not playing by the rules, so who in the world knows what they’re selling” and was not defamation because he never referenced AFI and intended it to mean a broad range of people or companies. 

Steele stated that AFI had shown that the statements were harmful and noted that Dorn’s statement “at a minimum, implies to the listener that AFI is doing something improper by selling Charlotte’s Web on Groupon in Florida, which by its nature is injurious to AFI”, and the statement “clearly implies from the context of the segment that he was speaking of AFI.”

Dorn’s motion to dismiss the claims against him was denied. 

U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida case Number 2:17-cv-491-FtM-99CM

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