ASA News

Nebraska Court Rules That Anti-Disparagement Lawsuit Filed by ASA-Member Tanning Salons May Proceed

Friday, December 4, 2015

Earlier this year, tanning salon operators in Nebraska, supported by the American Suntanning Association (ASA), filed a lawsuit in Nebraska state court against the Nebraska Cancer Coalition (NCC), and two of its officers, alleging defamation and violation of the Nebraska Deceptive Trade Practices Act. In response, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the action, arguing that the plaintiff salon operators had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

In a decision entered November 24, 2015, the Nebraska District Court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit. In ruling in favor of the plaintiff salon operators, the Court found that the complaint alleged facts sufficient to state a claim against both the NCC and the two individually named defendants, for both defamation and violations of the Nebraska Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

As part of its ruling, the Court found that the lawsuit sufficiently stated facts showing the alleged false and defamatory statements made by the defendants in their “The Bed Is Dead” campaign (www.thebedisdead.org), were made in the course of the defendants’ business, vocation, or occupation. In so ruling, the Court relied on plaintiffs’ allegations that the defendants’ anti-tanning campaign was:

“a coordinated scheme [that] is funded in part by individuals and commercial entities having a direct financial interest in generating negative publicity about indoor tanning salons, including the sunscreen and cosmetic industries and those providing UV light treatments in medical facilities,” and that

“Dr. Watts and other members of the NCC have a financial interest in destroying Plaintiffs’ businesses, as Dr. Watts and others in his industry seek to offer cosmetic dermatology services to Plaintiffs’ customers, in place of those services provided by Plaintiffs.”

The Court also noted in its ruling that “Defendants’ statements, as alleged by Plaintiffs, prejudice Plaintiffs in their profession, trade, and business” and that “Plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged that Defendants’ statements are defamatory per se.”

To review the ruling, and find out more information about the suit, please visit Nebraskatanfacts.com. To contribute to a dedicated fund to support this litigation (your contribution may be tax deductible as a business expense), please visit the ASA Legal Fund’s GoFundMe page.