U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain of the Southern District of New York granted a motion to dismiss a defamation suit filed by celebrity doctor Robert Huizenga against a former “The Biggest Loser” contestant who told the New York Post that Huizenga provided her and others on the show with a weight loss supplement banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2004.
Joelle Gwynn, who appeared during the show’s 2008 season, claimed she was provided with so-called yellow jacket pills that contained ephedra extract by Huizenga, even after the FDA banned the sale of dietary supplements containing the substance four years earlier.
“I felt jittery and hyper,” Gwynn was quoted telling the Post in 2016. “I went and told the sports medicine guy. The next day, Dr. H gave us some lame explanation of why they got added to our regimen and that it was up to us to take them. … People chastise Bill Cosby for allegedly offering meds to women, but it’s acceptable to do to fat people to make them lose weight. I feel like we got raped, too.”
In his second amended complaint, Huizenga claimed that at least nine statements by Gwynn, including the one quoted by The Post, were false and defamatory. According to Huizenga, the Post was told the allegations were not true, that contestants were told there was a zero-tolerance policy on the show for weight-loss drugs, and that regular screenings were done to catch abuse.
In her opinion, Swain found that Huizenga had failed to adequately allege Gwynn’s statements were made with actual malice. Rather, the second amended complaint asserted “in a conclusory fashion” that she made statements she knew to be false and reckless, yet failed to show any supporting evidence.
“Plaintiff has not averred any facts regarding his conversations or interactions with Gwynn, or even about the existence or nature of the allegedly illicit pills, that would permit the court to draw a plausible inference that the Gwynn statements were untrue, such that Gwynn acted with knowledge of their falsity when making them,” Swain wrote.
She went on to note that Huizenga did not allege that the conversation described by Gwynn did not, in fact, occur, nor does it state outright that she was not provided with a yellow-and-black pill.
On top of the defamation claims, Huizenga accused Gwynn of intentionally trying to harm his economic interests. Yet, like the defamation allegations, Swain found that the plaintiff failed to show that Gwynn’s statements were specifically aimed at interfering with his business interests.
Huizenga was represented by a legal team led by Tarter Krinsky & Drogin partner Mark J. Rosenberg. He did not respond to a request for comment.
The legal team representing Gwynn was led by Miller Korzenik Sommers Rayman name attorney David Korzenik. He told the New York Law Journal that the results were in line with the defamation cases following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, which held that a plausible allegation of malice must be shown for a case to survive a dismissal motion.
A spokeswoman for the New York Post, which is party to the suit, declined to comment.