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Times disputes billboard accusations

October 20, 2011 |  6:10 pm


This post has been updated. See below for details.

Billboards have been placed along Southern California freeways, apparently seeking plaintiffs for a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Times.

Under the heading, “Class Action Lawsuit,” the billboards urge motorists to contact San Diego lawyer Jeffrey Krinsk if they believe they were “Illegaly [sic] wire-tapped by the LA Times” or to “Report LA Times Fraud.”

Krinsk, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, represents Robert Silverman in a Los Angeles County Superior Court lawsuit against Times’ columnist Michael Hiltzik. The lawsuit accuses Hiltzik of secretly recording telephone conversations he had with Silverman, an attorney who represents 1-800-GET-THIN, a company that markets Lap-Band weight-loss surgery.

Hiltzik did not record any conversations with Silverman, Times spokeswoman Nancy Sullivan said in a statement. Notably, the class action does not allege either wiretapping or fraud, as suggested by the billboards, Sullivan said.

The Times has published a series of articles and columns detailing the deaths of five patients after having Lap-Band surgery at centers affiliated with 1-800-GET-THIN.

Silverman has represented 1-800-GET-THIN and two of the people behind the campaign, Michael and Julian Omidi, in three lawsuits against The Times and its journalists. All three lawsuits were dismissed. The Omidis were ordered to pay The Times legal expenses in two of the cases.

They have filed appeals in all three cases.

“It is just another baseless lawsuit filed by the people behind the 1-800-GET-THIN marketing campaign in an attempt to deter further reporting by The Times,” Sullivan said. “Numerous related lawsuits that they filed against The Times and its employees have been thrown out of court. We are confident that this latest, equally meritless lawsuit also will be thrown out.”

[Updated on Friday, Oct. 21 at 1:30 p.m.: Krinsk sent an email to The Times on Friday afternoon to explain the billboard campaign.

“There is no effort to locate plaintiffs,” he said in the email. “As intended lead counsel for the putative class it is generally considered poor lawyering (and possibly malpractice) to not independently and promptly attempt to locate witnesses or other corraborative [sic] evidence. This is particularly true after passage of the PSLRA (Private Securities Litigation Reform Act) which introduced the concept that a higher pleading standard prevails and, at least as to covered cases, no discovery is allowed until the complaint survives the initial pleading of the named defendants. As class litigators we rountinely [sic] apply what we learn to each subsequent case and while not required in the underlying case, it nonetheless has proven to be a best practices expectation.”]


Lap-Band clinic is directed to improve

Another patient dies after Lap-Band surgery

Clinics plug nonprofit to help patients get Lap-Band coverage

-- Stuart Pfeifer

Photo: Billboard on southbound 710 Freeway in Maywood. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times