The regional charitable public organization “Hunter Syndrome” in two court instances failed to recover compensation of 3 million rubles from the “Mother and Child” charity foundation. “Hunter Syndrome” insisted in the courts that in January 2021, a letter signed by the plaintiff was sent from the e-mail registered from the defendant’s IP address to the Prosecutor General’s Office, Rospotrebnadzor and the Ministry of Health of Russia, which contained information that did not correspond to reality and discredited him business reputation. Hunter-syndrome asked for 3 million rubles as compensation. The courts concluded that the plaintiff failed to provide evidence that the disputed letter was composed and sent by the defendant.
The Eighteenth Arbitration Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the Arbitration Court of Bashkiria dated December 2022, which denied the regional charitable public organization “Society of Disabled Persons Suffering from Hunter’s Syndrome and Other Forms of Mucopolysaccharidosis and Other Forms of Rare Genetic Diseases, Republic of Bashkortostan” (“Hunter Syndrome”) satisfaction of the claim against the Mother and Child Charitable Foundation. Hunter Syndrome asked that the information contained in the letter that became the subject of a lawsuit be recognized as untrue and discrediting the business reputation, that the defendant be required to refute it, and that compensation of 3 million rubles be recovered from the fund.
It follows from the materials of the case that on January 29, 2021, on behalf of Hunter-syndrome, a letter was sent to the General Prosecutor’s Office of Russia, the Minister of Health of the country, the head of Rospotrebnadzor, signed by the head of the organization Eleonora Romanova. In particular, it contained a request to conduct an investigation into the activities of Sandoz JSC, Skopinsky Pharmaceutical Plant LLC and Novartis Pharma LLC (they were involved in the case as third parties). According to the author of the letter, the companies illegally imported into the country the unregistered drug Zolgensma, intended for the gene therapy treatment of spinal muscular atrophy in children. The cost of the medicine is more than 150 million rubles. This drug, the letter noted, despite the presence of cheaper analogues registered in Russia, physicians in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Moscow prescribed to their patients, despite the side effects. According to the author of the appeal, to conduct “closed clinical trials on children.”
In the lawsuit, Hunter Syndrome indicated that it had nothing to do with this letter. Eleanor Romanova found out about him only on March 15, 2021, when she received a response from the Russian Ministry of Health. On this fact, Mrs. Romanova sent a statement to the police, where it was established that the appeal was sent from the IP address “Mother and Child” in Sterlitamak.
In court, Eleonora Romanova explained that as a result of the distribution of the letter, the foundation’s reputation was undermined and a number of medical organizations and health workers refused to cooperate with it.
The court of first instance, refusing to satisfy the claim, noted that no evidence was presented in the case that the disputed letter was sent by one of the employees of Mother and Child.
The Court of Appeal agreed with the lower court’s findings.
Eleonora Romanova told Kommersant-Ufa that she intended to file a cassation appeal.
“I consider Hunter Syndrome’s chances of winning the cassation instance to be low. It will be possible to cancel the decision if the court reveals significant violations of the procedural law committed by the courts when making decisions,” said Mikhail Khokholkov, lawyer at Intellect law firm. – Cases on the protection of business reputation have their own characteristics. First, it is necessary to prove the fact of dissemination of information by the defendant. Secondly, the disputed information must be unreliable and negative and expressed in the form of an assertion. Therefore, it is possible that the wrong tactics were chosen by the plaintiff. In such a situation, it is better to focus on the content. For example, to get the opinion of an expert linguist, who would establish the forms of statements and the relevance of the text to the plaintiff. And then, in a special order, ask the court to recognize the disseminated information as discrediting and unreliable. Such a decision can be presented to interested parties and “justify” your trust. In the present case, the examination was not carried out, and even if it were possible to establish the sender of the letter, this would not affect the outcome of the case.