I appear to have been too generous to Lott’s complaint when I first criticized it. William Ford, a Bigelow teacher at University of Chicago Law, has posted a devastating two-part analysis (via Wright) of the main count of Lott’s complaint. In the first part, he shows that “replication” does not have the “clear and unambiguous” meaning ascribed to it; in the second, he finds examples of Lott himself using “replicate” in meanings other than the definition in his complaint. Lott critic-in-chief Tim Lambert finds some more examples of the use of “replicate” that appear to exonerate Levitt’s phrasing—though Lambert fudges the National Academy of Science report, which says something rather different about replicating Lott’s results than what Levitt said in Freakonomics.
The case won’t necessarily get thrown out of court; Lott still has the second count, an errant e-mail sent by Levitt to a Texas economist accusing Lott of buying articles. But unless he can demonstrate that Levitt repeated that accusation in more than a stray e-mail, or was making other libelous allegations, potential damages look nominal for that count: the big-money claim is in the first count.