I thought I’d seen it all. But Judge Jack B. Weinstein, the presiding justice in the case against Eli Lilly and its hot selling antipsychotic drug, Zyprexa, showed me I hadn’t. The company is in an all out legal war with various people and organizations who claim that it tried to hide and/or play down the risks associated with Zyprexa. Just read today’s New York Times article "Documents Borne by Winds of Free Speech” to understand all the details.
Documents in this case were sealed by the court as part of the litigation and should never have been seen by the public. Yet these same documents (which portray Eli Lilly in an unflattering light) have since spread to every corner of the Internet due to a host of bumbling maneuvers by a consulting witness to the case and another lawyer suing the company. Judge Weinstein is mad. He has a right to be.
So how does he react? The judge tells this same lawyer that he needs to provide a list of every single recipient who received the “stolen” documents and collect all copies. On top of this, Judge Weinstein ordered that each of these 14 recipients communicate this injunction to everyone else who has since made copies, posted them to a web site or facilitated in the distribution of any information taken from the documents. This means that if Joe Public innocently decides to posts a one line message in a chat room that simply informs people about the documents, he would run afoul of the law.
What planet is this judge from? It’s simply hilarious that this highly respected individual believes he can control the flow of this information after it has spread virally to thousands or points across the Internet. I’m not sure if he understands what the Internet is (or isn’t for that matter), but by executing this order, it has also made Eli Lilly look extremely foolish in the process. My guess is that most of the individuals who continue to distribute this information have absolutely nothing to do with Eli Lilly’s litigation and are probably passing on interesting fodder like this simply because of their interest in health related issues. Will he prosecute every ordinary citizen (including me) who has passed on the information at hand?
This case has now taken on an entirely new meaning with a
much more interesting and higher profile because of these recent court
decisions. If Eli Lilly’s lawyers are pushing for this injunction to continue,
it will only serve to create that much more of a publicity sensation because of
the First amendment issues that it touches and the entertaining nature of
what’s now taking place. Consequently, this will exponentially increase the
amount of negative visibility that Lilly receives from those highly publicized
documents that it tried to squash in the first place.
The genie is out of the bottle and no one can put him back. Legal issues aside, it’s time for Eli Lilly to focus on saving its reputation and come clean now.