Thanks to a multibillion-dollar defamation lawsuit filed today from a direct-to-consumer teeth-straightening company, Cesar Conde won’t be getting much of a honeymoon as the newly installed chief of the newly formed NBCUniversal News Group.
“SmileDirectClub gave NBC every opportunity to retract this defamatory report and correct the record voluntarily,” said the action against NBCUniversal Media LLC and reporter Vicky Nguyen that hit the docket in the Tennessee courts on Monday from the teledentistry organization over a critical February report from NBC News. “NBC chose not to so,” says the $2.85 billion-seeking suit (read it here).
“At that point, the company had no choice but to bring this lawsuit to defend its brand and the reputation of hundreds of doctors who are using SmileDirectClub’s telehealth platform to treat patients every day,” the Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff-represented company adds in its jury-demanding filing. “With this lawsuit, SmileDirectClub is not just holding NBC accountable for its misconduct, but it is also telling its affiliated doctors and shareholders that SmileDirectClub stands by their side and will fight to protect their interests and reputations.”
Putting its best face forward, the Comcast-owned NBCU was quick and succinct in its response to the big-bucks lawsuit. ““We stand by our reporting and believe this is a meritless claim,” an NBC News spokesperson told Deadline today.
You can watch the February 13 segment in question here:
If you are wondering why SmileDirectClub wants $2.85 billion out of NBCU, it’s because the plaintiff claims that the Nightly News item set off a stock slide that cost it $950 million in market valuation. The Nashville-based SDC’s filing seeks triple that alleged injury under the provisions of the Volunteer State’s Consumer Protection Act.
“NBC must be held accountable for its abuse of power and betrayal of trust,” the dense, 209-page lawsuit asserts of its big swing.
“Viewers and readers across the country turn to the media for the information they need to make decisions about their health and well-being,” the suit by attorney J. Erik Connolly also states. “NBC abused their trust by publishing reports about SDC that were littered with false and misleading statements. NBC’s misconduct not only financially injured SDC, but it also prevented patients from seeking the affordable treatment they need for their orthodontic problems and caused investors to lose millions, if not billions, of dollars.”
If Connolly’s name seems oddly familiar, it maybe because the Benesch, Friedlander lawyer was one of the top attorneys on the beef industry’s “pink slime” lawsuit against ABC News over a critical report back in 2012. As things moved toward trial, ABC parent company Disney ended up settling that $1.9 billion defamation battle with the bluntly named Beef Products, Inc for $177 million in 2017, according to corporate disclosures.
Wonder if that less-than-10% result of the initial sum sought will be how this one ends up?
In case you missed it, former Telemundo chair Conde took over from the much-criticized Andy Lack on May 4 after a corporate shuffle by new-ish NBCU CEO Jeff Shell
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