NEW ORLEANS — Procter & Gamble does not get a second “bite at the apple” in its lawsuit against Amway Corp. over false rumors that P&G was linked to Satanism, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Monday in rejecting the case.
The case had been dismissed in Texas after another appeals courts ruled in favor of Amway in a Utah case early last year. Procter & Gamble attorneys told a panel of the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals it was not required to follow the other court’s lead and sought to have the Texas decision reversed.
But “a party gets only ‘one bite at the apple’ and is not allowed to take two bites simply because it attempts to take both at the once,” Judge Jerry Smith wrote for the three-member panel that heard the case.
P&G spokeswoman Linda Ulrey said in a statement that the company was disappointed with the decision.
Amway, a subsidiary of Ada, Mich.-based Alticor Inc., sells household products, many of which compete with P&G’s products.
Cincinnati-based P&G alleged that Amway and a group of Amway distributors spread a baseless story about P&G and Satanism.
False rumors began linking P&G’s former crescent-shaped “man in the moon” logo to Satanism in the late 1970s. The false story also claimed that the company’s president had revealed his association with the Church of Satan during a national television interview.
P&G claimed distributors for Amway revived the rumors in 1995 when a distributor in Utah recounted a version of the TV-show rumor on the company’s national voice mail system.
Vigorous rounds of litigation followed, with more than 2 million pages of documents in three federal lawsuits filed by the companies in Utah, Texas and Michigan.
But Procter & Gamble was “trying to hold Amway responsible for something it didn’t have anything to do with,” Amway attorney Charles Babcock said.
“I think this is pretty much the last gasp of the Procter and Gamble litigation,” he added.
A federal judge in Utah dismissed the charges against Amway, ruling that the rumors were not defamatory and that P&G had not made a case for specific damages. That ruling was upheld last year by the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Within days of the appeals court ruling, the Texas case was dismissed as well, and P&G made its appeal to the 5th Circuit.