Guru who claims to heal cancer through thoughts can sue St. Paul writer

Guru Mahendra Trivedi claims his remote energy transmissions have the power to heal the sick, grow more crops, cure cancer, and make money for those who receive them, and for $900 to $2,000 a month you can receive them, according to his website. He says he’s created 70,000 miracles so far.

It’s the sort of thing that might lead someone to suggest it’s all poppycock, and the process of doing that is going to cost a St. Paul writer. The Minnesota Court of Appeals has reinstated a defamation suit against a blogger who basically did just that.

Dennis Lang, a blogger, told the Star Tribune in 2015 that he was thinking of writing a magazine article about Trivedi. He had already made several postings on the now defunct PurQi blog, questioning claims that the energy transmissions could cure cancer, for example.

Trivedi sued Lang in Arizona for defamation and won a $59 million award in a trial Lang didn’t attend.

So Trivedi sued Lang in Minnesota and although the case was quickly dismissed, the Court of Appeals has given it the go-ahead in a decision this week.

Typically, “public figures” or people involved in a controversy have a more difficult time proving that defamation occurred because of malice.

Trivedi claimed, however, that he’s not a public figure, his website doesn’t get much traffic, and the media hasn’t covered his claims to the point where it is a “public controversy.”

“If appellants’ claims of thousands of scientific studies regarding the Trivedi Effect are true, then a whirlwind of public debate is already established. And, true or not, the resulting Internet discussion of the accuracy of those claims amounts to a real dispute that is being publicly debated,” Judge John Rodenberg wrote on behalf of a three-judge panel.

That would appear to make Trivedi fair target for an online critic, but the court said the website also made assertions about Trivedi’s sexual propensities.

Although the record reveals some evidence of a claim of Trivedi’s celibacy, appellants’ essential claims concerning Trivedi and the Trivedi Effect seem not to be based on moral superiority or essential goodness.

To the contrary, Trivedi claims to possess awesome power to transmit energy to others, and advertises throughout the world his willingness to transmit some of his awesome power in exchange for money. The public controversy concerns whether the Trivedi Effect has any basis in fact, and the marketing and business practices of appellants in promoting and monetizing the Trivedi Effect.

That former employees questioned the legal and ethical propriety of Trivedi’s sexual conduct is insufficient to make that subject one of public debate. It cannot be that every Internet discussion or dispute amounts to a public controversy. Respondent has not demonstrated that his statements concerning Trivedi’s sexual propensities and conduct amount to a publicly debated dispute. Therefore, respondent’s [Lang’s] statements concerning sexual matters are not part of the public controversy.

So while the court said Lang is protected when he suggested the Trivedi effect is a sham, that Trivedi engaged in illegal business practices, green-card violations, questionable employment and bank transactions, claims about sexual conduct are not.

A lower court had also defined Lang as “journalist” and, thus, entitled to some protection under the “actual malice” standard. Trivedi asserted Lang is just a person writing things on the Internet.

“While [Lang] published his statements online, rather than in a traditional media format, we are satisfied that online journalism is equivalent to print
journalism and that online journalists are entitled to no less First Amendment protection than other media defendants,” Rodenberg said.

(h/t Minnesota Lawyer)