Judge rejects Biospherics libel suit against Forbes Columbia firm claimed July column hurt its stock

Legal affairs

December 19, 1997|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,SUN STAFF

The location of Biospherics Inc.'s headquarters was incorrect in an article in yesterday's editions. The company is in Beltsville.

The Sun regrets the error.

A federal judge has thrown out a libel suit filed against the publisher of Forbes magazine by Biospherics Inc., a Columbia-based company which has developed a nonfattening sugar substitute.

Biospherics filed the lawsuit against Forbes Inc. in July, contending that its stock price declined and the company had difficulty raising capital as a result of a column that appeared under the heading "Money & Investments," in the Jan. 13 issue of the business publication.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

The lawsuit, which sought $15 million in damages, contended that Forbes was negligent in stating that the company's sugar substitute called Sugaree "isn't up to the company's claims," and that "the few independent analysts who follow the company think the stock is worth $2 on current business."

In throwing the case out, Judge Deborah K. Chasanow, in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, said she found the column to be a statement of opinion and therefore protected by the First Amendment.

Chasanow said in her decision that "any reasonable reader would see this article for what it is -- a stock tip which is purely the opinion of the tipster."

Gilbert V. Levin, Biospherics president, said yesterday that the company was disappointed.

"I am very surprised. We thought it was clearly false and libelous," said Levin.

Pub Date: 12/19/97

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