Monday, August 27, 2012

Dr. David McKee sues patient's son for Internet defamation and hires a private detective to find out which nurse called McKee a "tool"

UPDATE: Defendant Dennis Laurion wins Internet defamation case in Minnesota Supreme Court.

David McKee v. Dennis Laurion

"When a doctor hires a private detective to find out which one of the 4,400 nurses in St. Louis County, MN may have called him a “tool” you know the man is serious about defending his reputation. That is just what Dr. David McKee of Northland Neurology and Myology is doing in preparation for the next leg of his defamation lawsuit against the son of a former patient, Dennis Laurion.

"When neurologist Dr. David McKee treated World War II veteran Kenneth Laurion his reportedly insensitive remarks and dreadful bedside manner had the vet’s son, Dennis Laurion, up in arms. The younger Laurion took his wrath to the web and posted unfavorable reviews about Dr. McKee on several rate-your-physician websites. Dennis Laurion contended that Dr. McKee failed to treat the elder Laurion with concern and respect.

According to Laurion, Dr. McKee “seemed upset” that Kenneth McKee was moved to a ward after a stint in the intensive care unit and said to his patient, “When you weren’t in ICU, I had to spend time finding out if you transferred or died.”

Laurion also reported that the doctor dismissed the stroke patient’s need for therapy before pulling Kenneth Laurion up to his feet and forcing him to walk without any regard for whether the patient’s hospital gown was tied at the back. Dennis Laurion even went so far as to write that when he “mentioned Dr. McKee’s name to a friend who is a nurse, she said, ‘Dr. McKee is a real tool!’”

"Angered by Laurion’s Internet critique, Dr. McKee filed a defamation suit against Dennis Laurion for $50,000. In his case Dr. McKee alleged that after treating Kenneth Laurion for his stroke, Dennis Laurion made “false and malicious statements” about the doctor to “nineteen different professional and medical organizations, regulatory agencies, and websites.”

"Upon hearing the case, Sixth Judicial District Judge Eric Hylden dismissed Dr. McKee’s lawsuit because he found Dennis Laurion’s comments to be a matter of opinion and thereby protected by the First Amendment. But in January of 2012 the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed Judge Hylden’s decision and ruled that a jury should evaluate that certain statements made by Dennis Laurion for their truthfulness and defamatory potential and returned the case to the lower court for further consideration.

"McKee v. Laurion is now scheduled to go to trail in January of 2013. But the Laurions are not backing down. They are already busy filing petitions with the Minnesota Supreme Court. The Laurions contend that the Minnesota Court of Appeals made an error in their determination that Dennis Laurion made false statements about his father’s allegedly “not-so-nice” neurologist. It appears that the only evidence the appeals court had to support their decision was Dr. McKee’s assertion that Dennis Laurion lied. And when you consider that a stroke sufferer will be dragged into court to give testimony on this issue just after his 88th birthday, it seems that Dr. McKee’s private investigator might have an easy time finding that nurse." ---DefamationLaw.net



Doctor's suit tests limits of online criticism
McClatchy Tribune News Service
March 30, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS — Two years ago, Dennis Laurion logged on to a rate-your-doctor website to vent about a Duluth neurologist, Dr. David McKee.

McKee had examined Laurion's father, Kenneth, when he was hospitalized after a stroke. The family, Laurion wrote, wasn't happy with his bedside manner. "When I mentioned Dr. McKee's name to a friend who is a nurse, she said, 'Dr. McKee is a real tool!' " he wrote.

McKee wasn't amused. He sued Laurion for defamation, and now the case is pending before the Minnesota Supreme Court.

McKee, 50, is one of a small number of doctors who have gone to court to fight online critics, in cases that are testing the limits of free speech on the Internet. "Doctors are not used to public criticism," said Eric Goldman, an associate professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law in California, who tracks such lawsuits. "So it's a new phenomenon for them."

While such cases are rare, Goldman said, they've been popping up around the country as patient review sites such as vitals.com and rateyourdoctor.com have flourished. Defamation suits are "kind of the nuclear option," Goldman said. "It's the thing that you go to when everything else has failed."

McKee's lawyer, Marshall Tanick, said the doctor felt he had no choice but to sue to protect his reputation and his medical practice.

"It's like removing graffiti from a wall," Tanick said. He said Laurion distorted the facts — not only on the Internet, but in more than a dozen complaint letters to various medical groups. "He put words in the doctor's mouth," making McKee "sound uncaring, unsympathetic or just stupid."

[Maura Larkins comment: Wait a minute. Dr. McKee is complaining that someone filed a complaint about a doctor??? Patients are just supposed to silently accept whatever a doctor dishes out?]

McKee calls Laurion "a liar and a bully," and says he has spent more than $7,000 to "scrub" the Internet of more than 100 vitriolic comments, many traced to a single computer (IP address) in Duluth.

"Somebody who holds a grudge against you can very maliciously go on the Internet, post anything they want, and ... basically redefine who you are," he said.

Laurion, 65, a retired Coast Guard chief petty officer, says he deleted the Internet comments shortly after the lawsuit was filed and "never rewrote them."

At the same time, his lawyer, John D. Kelly, defends the postings. He says it was Laurion's perception that "the doctor's speech and conduct were tactless and inconsiderate." And that, he argued, is "constitutionally protected."

So far, Minnesota courts have had mixed reactions. A district court in Duluth dismissed McKee's lawsuit last year, but the state Appeals Court reinstated it in January. Laurion has appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

The dispute isn't about McKee's medical decisions, but about something less tangible: his body language and comments when he walked into Kenneth Laurion's room at St. Luke's Hospital in Duluth on April 20, 2010.

In his online postings, Dennis Laurion wrote that McKee "seemed upset" because he thought his father, then 84, was still in intensive care.

"Never having met my father or his family, Dr. McKee said, 'When you weren't in the ICU, I had to spend time finding out if you transferred or died,' " according to Laurion's account. "When we gaped at him, he said, 'Well, 44 percent of hemorrhagic strokes die within 30 days. I guess this is the better option.' "

Laurion, who was visiting with his wife and mother, wrote that McKee was brusque and dismissive during the exam, especially when his father raised concerns that his hospital gown was hanging open at the back. "Dr. McKee said, 'That doesn't matter,' " according to Laurion's account. "My wife said, 'It matters to us,' " and they left the room.

McKee discovered the online comments when a patient brought them to his attention. He filed suit, seeking more than $50,000 in damages. "The way he quoted me was completely inaccurate," McKee said in an interview. At the time, he said, nobody in the room "appeared to me to be the slightest bit upset."

[Maura Larkins comment: Figure it out, Dr. McKee. Their husband and father was in your care. They couldn't afford to make you angry. You were in a position of power.]

According to court documents, McKee admitted making a "jocular comment" about only two ways to leave the intensive care unit, but said he only meant that he was relieved to find Laurion in his hospital bed. He denied citing any statistic about stroke deaths and said the entire story was distorted beyond recognition.

"Every physician gets an occasional complaint from a patient, or even a patient's family member, but this was so ridiculous," he said. "This just seemed so extremely over the top, and really meant to be harmful."

In the first legal battle, district Judge Eric Hylden in Duluth sided with Laurion. "The statements in this case appear to be nothing more or less than one man's description of shock at the way he and in particular his father were treated by a physician," he wrote in dismissing the suit in April 2011.

The appeals court disagreed, ruling in January that some of the statements were fair game for a defamation suit and sending the dispute back for trial.

Tanick, McKee's lawyer, said the case isn't just about someone voicing an opinion. He said Laurion defamed the doctor by accusing him of things "that never happened."

Laurion's lawyer, however, says it's a matter of perception. "Something happened in that room that disturbed the four members of the family significantly," he said.

More than a dozen defamation suits have been filed since 2004 by doctors or dentists over online reviews; most have been dismissed or settled, according to Goldman.

Some medical practices have even tried to silence critics by requiring patients to sign a form forbidding them from posting comments on the Internet.


But Dr. Jeffrey Segal, a North Carolina neurosurgeon who promoted the controversial forms, says he's since had a change of heart; he "retired" them last year in the face of widespread criticism...



Here's a similar case from California.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Minnesota Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in David McKee vs Dennis Laurion on September 4, 2012, in the State Capitol Building.

Anonymous said...

These are comments from http://www.minnesota-litigator.com/2012/09/04/huge-threats-challenges-defamation-cases/#more-6523

On the Huge Threats and Challenges of Defamation Cases
Posted on September 4, 2012 by Seth Leventhal

In the digital age, (mis)information travels far, fast, and essentially at no up-front cost — as never before. The potential for far-reaching reputational harm, irretrievable and at light-speed is a new social phenomenon. This should be news to no one. There is now a thriving market for “reputation management” (formerly known as public relations, damage control, crisis management?). And the U.K. has recently increased the price of defamation (?!?).

But think twice before you counsel your client to sue for defamation…
There are many perils in defamation cases. Perhaps the worst is that current U.S. law and, in particular, the rules for stating claims in complaints arguably require defamed plaintiffs to echo, re-broadcast, and republish the defamatory statements complained of in a public court file. (Do the rules really require this? Maybe not. Call to consult.)

How many people would have read or heard of the unflattering descriptions of Dr. McKee if he himself had had not made a case of them?
The case, by the way, is being argued before the Minnesota Supreme Court this morning. The trial court had tossed out Dr. McKee’s complaint. The Court of Appeals reversed in part, concluding: that appellant’s defamation claim shall proceed with respect to the following statements: (1) appellant told the patient that he had to “spend time finding out if you were transferred or died”; (2) appellant said, “44% of hemorrhagic strokes die within 30 days. I guess this is the better option”; (3) appellant said, “You don’t need therapy”; (4) appellant said, “it doesn’t matter” that the patient’s gown did not cover his backside; (5) appellant left the patient’s room without talking to the patient’s family; and (6) a nurse told respondent that appellant was “a real tool.”

Has Dr. McKee’s lawsuit made him more likely or less likely to be widely viewed as “a real tool”?

In short, if you bring a “normal” lawsuit and lose, the reputational risk is relatively slight. If, however, you bring a defamation lawsuit and you lose, or even if you quietly settle and call it a “win” (which is, all things considered, will be the way over 90% likely outcome), you may have taken whatever harm you originally suffered and magnified it, perhaps exponentially.

If a jury agrees with a doctor defamation plaintiff’s claim that a disappointed patient’s family falsely suggested that a nurse called the doctor a “real tool,” can the doctor really trace any actual damages to that unflattering, if ambiguous, label?

More at: http://www.minnesota-litigator.com/2012/09/04/huge-threats-challenges-defamation-cases/#more-6523

Anonymous said...

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=MB0VAAAAIBAJ&sjid=wgMEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6682%2C2701449

http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2001/08/27/bus_321610.shtml

Toledo Blade 8/24/2001 reprints article from Minneapolis – St. Paul Star:

Firm sues over messages on the Internet.

Message board participants have the right to voice their opinions. . .

If a (plaintiff) sues, alleging simple business disparagement or perhaps defamation, its goal isn’t necessarily to win, said Marshall Tanick . . . The strategy is to force the other person to incur huge legal expenses that will deter them and others. . . very few cases go all the way to trial. A (plaintiff’s) strategy typically includes filing in a state that might be inconvenient and costly for defendants. Lawyers will seek ways to avoid First Amendment issues because they are hard to prove.

Anonymous said...

In David McKee MD vs Dennis Laurion, the plaintiff’s attorney told the Minnesota Supreme Court the correct way to critique a doctor at a rating site.

The next paragraph is taken from comments to Minnesota Supreme Court:
http://www.tpt.org/courts/MNJudicialBranchvideo_NEW.php?number=A111154#

He may have been upset at how Dr. McKee treated his father. Apparently he was, and he’s entitled to say that. He can say that “I’m upset. Doctor McKee did not treat my father well. He was insensitive.” He can make statements like that: “He didn’t spend enough time in my opinion.” He can make factual (sic) statements, he can make them on the Internet, he can make them in letters, he can write a letter to the editor, he can stand in front of St. Luke’s Hospital with a placard saying those things if they are opinions . . .

Anonymous said...

This is posted at the First Amendment Center.

MINNEAPOLIS — A Duluth doctor took offense when a patient’s son posted critical remarks about him on some rate-your-doctor websites, including a comment by a nurse who purportedly called the physician “a real tool.”

So Dr. David McKee had an unusually aggressive response: He sued the son for defamation. The Duluth neurologist’s improbable case has advanced all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which is weighing whether the lawsuit should go to trial.

“His reputation is at stake. He does not want to be a target for false and malicious remarks,” said his lawyer, Marshall Tanick.

McKee’s case highlights the tension that sometimes develops on websites such as Yelp and Angie’s List when the free speech rights of patients and their families clash with the rights of doctors, lawyers and other professionals to protect their good names.

“Patients now have power to affect their businesses in ways they never had,” said Eric Goldman, a professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law who studies the issue. Health care providers are “evolving how to deal with patient feedback, but they’re still in the process of learning how to do that.”

Most online reviews never provoke any response. And successful challenges to negative reviews are rare. Americans are legally entitled to express opinions, as long as they don’t knowingly make false statements.

But if the two sides contest basic facts, disputes can swiftly escalate.

At issue are six of Dennis Laurion’s statements, including the account of the nurse’s name calling. McKee and his attorney say the unnamed nurse doesn’t exist and that Laurion invented her to hide behind. Laurion maintains she is real, but he can’t recall her name.

In arguments before the court in September, Laurion’s attorney John Kelly said his client’s statements were legally protected opinion that conveyed dismay over how McKee treated Laurion’s father, who had suffered a stroke. The posts described a single visit that lasted 10 to 15 minutes.

The review said McKee seemed upset that after Laurion’s father had been moved from intensive care to a regular hospital room, the doctor “had to spend time finding out if you transferred or died.”

Laurion also complained that McKee treated them brusquely and was insensitive to the family’s concerns about the patient being seen in public in a gown that gaped open in the back.

In an interview, Kelly said nothing Laurion posted was defamatory — a false statement that harms a person’s reputation.

The court is expected to rule on the case sometime in the next few months.

Lawsuits over professional reviews are uncommon in part because most patients write positive reviews, Goldman said. And many states have passed laws that block the kind of lawsuits that are filed mainly to scare someone into shutting up on matters of public concern.

Known as “strategic lawsuits against public participation,” those complaints are often forbidden by broad laws that protect criticism even if it’s wrong, Goldman said.

When health care providers do sue, they rarely succeed. Of 28 such lawsuits that Goldman tracked, 16 had been dismissed and six settled. The others were pending.

One notable exception was a Maine case in which a chiropractor sued a former patient for postings on Facebook and websites that accused him of sexually assaulting her. The courts concluded she probably fabricated her story.

In June, a judge ruled that the chiropractor could legally attach $100,000 worth of the patient’s property to his claim as security pending further proceedings in the case, which remains open.

Yelp says reviewers are well within their rights to express opinions and relate their experiences. Spokeswoman Kristen Whisenand says the company discourages professionals from using what she called the “nuclear option” of suing over a negative review. She said they rarely succeed and wind up drawing more attention to the review they dislike.

See rest of article:
http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/virtual-reviews-can-carry-real-world-risks

Chicago Brick said...

This lawsuit, McKee v Laurion, was named among "The top lawsuits of 2013" by "Twin Cities Business Magazine” on December 20, 2013:

Dr. David McKee, a Duluth neurologist, was not laughing when he saw what one former client wrote about him on a doctor-rating website. The reviewer, Dennis Laurion, complained that McKee made statements that he interpreted as rude and quoted a nurse who had called the doctor “a real tool.” As these statements echoed through the Internet, McKee felt his reputation was being tarnished. He sued, and so began a four-year journey that ended this year in the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Laurion was unhappy with the way McKee treated his father, who was brought to the doctor after he had a stroke. Laurion went to several rate-your-doctor sites to give his opinion. That’s just free speech, isn’t it?

It sure is, says Laurion’s attorney, John D. Kelly of the Duluth firm Hanft Fride. “The court held that what my client was quoted as saying was not defamatory,” he says. “I do think the Internet makes it much easier for persons exercising poor judgment to broadcast defamatory statements, however… a medium… doesn’t change the quality of a statement from non-defamatory to defamatory.”

But McKee’s lawyer, Marshall Tanick, of Hellmuth & Johnson, says no matter where it was said, defamation is defamation. “The thing that’s often misunderstood is that this was not just about free speech, but about making actual false statements,” Tanick says. “The problem is today’s unfettered opportunity to express opinion, whether or not the substance of what’s said is true or not. We need some boundaries.”

But boundaries were not on the minds of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Free speech was. Chief Justice Lorie Gildea wrote, “The point of the post is, ‘This doctor did not treat my father well.’ I can’t grasp why that wouldn’t be protected opinion.”

As to referring to the doctor as “a real tool,” Justice Alan Page wrote that the insult “falls into the category of pure opinion because the term … cannot be reasonably interpreted as a fact and it cannot be proven true or false.”

The takeaway from this case might be the knowledge that behind any rating service lie real people with real feelings. McKee spent more than $60,000 in the effort to clear his name, as he saw it.

Dennis Laurion told the Star Tribune he spent the equivalent of two years’ income, some of which he had to borrow from relatives who supplied the money by raiding their retirement funds.

Dennis said...

In spite of the Supreme Court conclusion, Marshall Tanick is STILL saying "The thing that’s often misunderstood is that this was not just about free speech, but about making actual false statements. The problem is today’s unfettered opportunity to express opinion, whether or not the substance of what’s said is true or not. We need some boundaries."

From the American Health Lawyers Association: In this case, the court found the six allegedly defamatory statements were not actionable because the “substance, the gist, the sting” of plaintiff’s version for each of the statements as provided in deposition and defendant’s version essentially carried the same meaning, satisfied the standard for substantial truth, did not show a tendency to harm the plaintiff’s reputation and lower his estimation in the community, or were incapable of conveying a defamatory meaning (e.g., when a nurse told defendant that plaintiff was “a real tool”) based on “how an ordinary person understands the language used in the light of surrounding circumstances.”

From the Business Insurance Blog: The Minnesota high court said, for instance, that Dr. McKee’s version of his comment about the intensive care unit was substantially similar to Mr. Laurion’s. “In other words, Dr. McKee’s account of what he said would produce the same effect on the mind of the reader,” the court said. “The minor inaccuracies of expression (in the statement) as compared to Dr. McKee’s version of what he said do not give rise to a genuine issue as to falsity.”

From the Duane Morris Media Blog: The doctor said in his deposition that with regard to finding out if Mr. Laurion was alive or dead, “I made a jocular comment… to the effect of I had looked for [Kenneth Laurion] up there in the intensive care unit and was glad to find that, when he wasn’t there, that he had been moved to a regular hospital bed, because you only go one of two ways when you leave the intensive care unit; you either have improved to the point where you’re someplace like this or you leave because you’ve died.” The court said the differences between the two versions of the statements about death or transfer by both plaintiff and defendant were so minor that there was no falsity in the website postings. In other words, the court indicated that the allegation about the statement was true.

Eggs Bened1ct said...

“The Streisand Effect.” refers to the consequence of inviting even more negative attention by trying to remove negative attention. (The) inspiration was Barbra Streisand’s objecting to a photo of her house in California being made part of a series documenting coastal erosion. Her complaints made the image far more pervasive online than it would have been had she simply ignored it.

David McKee, M.D., a Duluth, Minn., neurologist, was unaware of this phenomenon at the time he decided to sue Dennis Laurion. Laurion’s father, Kenneth, had suffered a stroke in April 2010; McKee was called in to assess Kenneth’s condition.

McKee asked if Kenneth felt like getting out of bed so he could make an assessment on mobility. He did, though his gown was partially undone in the back. According to the Laurions, McKee was oblivious to Kenneth’s modesty. “His son was right there,” McKee counters. “If he was concerned about the gown, he didn’t get out of his chair to tie it.”

The family exited the room while McKee conducted a brief examination. Laurion says he returned to find his father partially conscious. His head, Laurion asserts, was “pushed against the railing” of the hospital bed, appearing to be a victim of postural hypotension that resulted in a brief fainting spell.

Unaware of any resentment, McKee went to the nurse’s station to dictate notes; an irritated Dennis Laurion consulted with his family to see if his impression of the arrogant doctor was real or imagined. At no point did he approach McKee to clear the air. Instead, he fired off a dozen or more letters to a variety of medical institutions, including the hospital’s ombudsman, the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice, Medicare, and the American Medical Association.

McKee sued Laurion for defamation. A local Duluth newspaper picked up on the story, favoring Laurion’s interpretation of events. McKee claims the writer called him shortly before close of business Friday to solicit a quote; the story ran the following day. “The article was written like I was being reviewed for misconduct,” McKee says. In fact, no action had been taken against him by any of the organizations Laurion had written to.

Two events further demoralized McKee. In April 2011, the judge granted Laurion’s motion for summary judgment, ruling his comments were protected free speech. Worse, a user on Reddit.com posted the newspaper story. Almost overnight, dozens of “reviews” popped up on RateMDs.com and other sites with outlandish commentary on McKee, who was referred to as “the dickface doctor of Duluth.” Their software was apparently unable to determine that a surge of opinion over a matter of hours was highly unusual activity for a physician who normally received perhaps three comments in a year.

McKee found no easy way to exit the situation. “You get drawn in,” he says, suggesting his lawyer nudged him into further action. “It’s throwing good money after bad. … I wanted out almost as soon as I got in, and it was always, ‘Well, just one more step.’” McKee appealed, and the summary judgment was overturned. The case, and the measurable impact of being labeled a “real tool,” was now headed for the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Law professor Eric Goldman, who says he feels physicians are “thin-skinned” when it comes to patient complaints, is confident that litigation is never the answer. “I imagine many lawyers saying that’s not good idea,” he says. “Good lawyers, anyway. McKee made a bad call. There are no winners in defamation lawsuits, and you should advise clients of that.”

McKee was rated for several years as a top provider in Duluth Superior Magazine, a well-regarded lifestyle publication that recently folded. But his online reputation will outlive that. “From now until the end of time, I’ll be the jerk neurologist who was rude to a World War II veteran,” the physician says. “I’m stuck with it forever.”

Full article:
http://www.buzzfeed.com/jakerossen/insult-and-injury-inside-the-webs-one-sided-war-on-doctors

Dennis said...

As one of the “trolls” detailed in the article, I have no issue with the accuracy of the text - at least as it pertains to me - but the tone of the title fails to distinguish sincere complaints about bedside manner from attacks on mental stability, attacks on medical prowess, fake websites, allegations of dangerous injections, and use of multiple identities. The author said “McKee and Laurion agree on substance…”

While being sued for defamation, I have been called a passive aggressive, an oddball, a liar, a coward, a bully, a malicious person, and a zealot family member. I’ve been said to have run a cottage industry vendetta, posting 108 adverse Internet postings in person or through proxies. That’s not correct. In reality, I posted ratings at three consumer rating sites, deleted them, and never rewrote them again.

The plaintiff’s first contact with me was a letter that said in part that he had the means and motivation to pursue me. The financial impact of being sued three years to date has been burdensome, a game of financial attrition that I haven’t wanted to play. The suit cost me the equivalent of two year’s net income - the same as 48 of my car payments plus 48 of my house payments. My family members had to dip into retirement funds to help me.

After receipt of a threat letter, I deleted my rate-your-doctor site postings and sent confirmation emails to opposing counsel. Since May of 2010, postings on the Internet by others include newspaper accounts of the lawsuit; readers’ remarks about the newspaper accounts; and blog opinion pieces written by doctors, lawyers, public relations professionals, patient advocates, and information technology experts. Dozens of websites by doctors, lawyers, patient advocates, medical students, law schools, consumer advocates, and free speech monitors posted opinions that a doctor or plumber shouldn’t sue the family of a customer for a bad rating. These authors never said they saw my deleted ratings – only the news coverage.

Harry Nevus said...

“DOC’S DEFAMATION LAWSUIT: THE PATIENT’S SIDE”
PHYSICIANS WEEKLY BY SKEPTICAL SCALPEL

Are you familiar with a case in Minnesota where a doctor sued a patient’s son for defamation over a negative review he posted? Dr. David McKee’s defamation lawsuit recently came up again because BuzzFeed posted an article entitled “Insult And Injury: How Doctors Are Losing The War Against Trolls.” (The Jake Rossen article - http://www.buzzfeed.com/jakerossen/insult-and-injury-inside-the-webs-one-sided-war-on-doctors - would appear here but is deleted because somebody posted it earlier on this forum.)

I tweeted a link to that article, and Dennis Laurion, whose father was the patient in the Minnesota, case wrote to me. (Laurion's reply to Jake Rossen’s article would be here, but it was also posted earlier on this forum.)

Correspondence of Skeptical Scalpel and Dennis K. Laurion:

[Scalpel] I very much appreciate your email and the clarification of your situation. I hope you realize that I personally took no side in the dispute you had with Dr. McKee.

[Laurion] Thanks, Doctor, for the courtesy of your reply. I do realize that you just tweeted the existence of the article.

[Scalpel] Most of the stories about your case tended to sympathize with the doctor and, his defamation suit brought far more attention to him and his behavior than if he had simply let it go. Is the litigation completely over?

[Laurion] Yes. For a while, the plaintiff threatened in settlement demands, to sue me for 500+ remarks made on Reddit.com. His “proof” was that most of the remarks came from Duluth, and I live in Duluth; he also lives and works in Duluth. He threatened to subpoena IP numbers and sue every poster, presumably all my relatives and friends, if I didn’t settle. I hadn’t posted to Reddit, I don’t know anybody who did, and nobody ever asked my ISP for my IP number or browsing history.

[Scalpel] Did you win the case?

[Laurion] I won dismissal from the Minnesota Supreme Court; he won the right to make me spend $56K I didn’t have. Minnesota allows “hip pocket lawsuits.” The plaintiff served me but didn’t file in court. He almost immediately asked my insurance company for a settlement, apology, and confidentiality agreement. This lawsuit was apparently supposed to last 3 weeks and never be filed in court; however, my insurance company doesn’t offer me defamation coverage, and I filed my reply through the court, putting the suit into public record and the attention of newspapers.

[Scalpel] Do you have any recourse as far as say, counter-suing Dr. McKee?

[Laurion] No. In Minnesota, each party is responsible for their own legal fees. Dr. McKee had to reimburse me about $2000 of filing fees and printing costs. I’d have contemplated a suit for abuse of process, but the Appellate Court’s decision not to dismiss tended to dilute my complaint.

[Scalpel] Are you familiar with strategic lawsuit against public participation lawsuits? If I recall correctly, your case took place in Minnesota which has an anti-SLAPP law.

[Laurion] I wanted my lawyer to file a SLAPP motion, but Minnesota SLAPP law only applies to actions that are wholly or in part government petitions. The plaintiff’ only charged me for my internet rating site reviews and mention of my letter to the Medicare Ombudsman, the County Health Department, or the Minnesota Board of Medical Review; however, my comments to those sources were quoted in briefs and newspaper comments.

Reference: http://www.physiciansweekly.com/docs-defamation-lawsuit-patients-side/

Skeptical Scalpel is a retired surgeon and was a surgical department chairman and residency program director for many years. He blogs at SkepticalScalpel.blogspot.com and tweets as @SkepticScalpel.

Uranus said...

UW-Whitewater professor sues student over postings

By Associated Press
Published: 11:31 EST, 22 May 2014 | Updated: 11:31 EST, 22 May 2014

WHITEWATER, Wis. (AP) — A University of Wisconsin-Whitewater professor is suing a former graduate student who posted online comments and videos that the teacher considers defamatory.

Anthony Llewellyn took a class last year from communications professor Sally Vogl-Bauer, but the experience didn't go well, the Janesville Gazette reported (http://bit.ly/1hcjNmn ) Thursday.

Llewellyn posted comments on professor-rating sites accusing the teacher of criticizing his academic abilities, grading him unfairly and causing him to fail out of school. He said he spoke with her in April about his concerns, two months before he was told he had failed her class.

Vogl-Bauer contends the comments amount to defamation, while Llewellyn says his goal was simply to inform the public about how the professor treated him.

Tim Edwards, the attorney representing Vogl-Bauer, said the comments could be especially damaging to someone in a small professional community. He said he and Vogl-Bauer agree that students should be allowed to express their opinions, "but when you go so far beyond that, into a concerted effort to attack somebody's reputation because things didn't go your way, that's much different."
Edwards and Vogl-Bauer asked Llewellyn to take down his online comments and videos. They filed the lawsuit after he refused.

Llewellyn said it's important for the videos and comments to stay online so the public can remain informed.

"I don't feel I've (gone) too far with my videos and comments because everything posted basically communicates exactly how Sally Vogl-Bauer treated me," Llewellyn said.

The lawsuit seeks punitive damages and attorney and trial fees. The case is scheduled to go a jury trial in September.

It's not clear how successful the lawsuit will be, but a similar case in Minnesota ended with a ruling in favor of the person who posted the online rating.
In that case, a doctor took offense when a patient's son went on a rate-your-doctor website and called him "a real tool," slang for stupid or foolish. The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in January 2013 that the comment wasn't defamatory because it was an opinion protected by free-speech rights.
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Information from: The Janesville Gazette, http://www.gazetteextra.com

Anonymous said...

Vogl-Bauer case:

To follow the court progress or for information about the plaintiff and defendant - Sally Vogl-Bauer V. Anthony Llewellyn, not David McKee MD V. Dennis Laurion -

1. Visit http://wcca.wicourts.gov/index.xsl .
2. Click "I agree" .
3. You'll be taken to http://wcca.wicourts.gov/simpleCaseSearch.xsl;jsessionid=640964EA587D052C62E1CAF493A883FA.render6 .
4. Name = Llewellyn .
5. County = Walworth .
6. Case Number = 2013CV001140 .

Anonymous said...

Vogl-Bauer case:

To follow the court progress or for information about the plaintiff and defendant - Sally Vogl-Bauer V. Anthony Llewellyn, not David McKee MD V. Dennis Laurion -

1. Visit http://wcca.wicourts.gov/index.xsl .
2. Click "I agree" .
3. You'll be taken to http://wcca.wicourts.gov/simpleCaseSearch.xsl;jsessionid=640964EA587D052C62E1CAF493A883FA.render6 .
4. Name = Llewellyn .
5. County = Walworth .
6. Case Number = 2013CV001140 .

Anonymous said...

Sally Vogl-Bauer of Wisconsin should read this forum to see the Streisand Effect stirred up by Dr. David McKee of Minnesota.

However, a Texas teacher named Elizabeth Ethredge should read this website also.

"Texas teacher sues two students for defamation"
Posted By Kristen Butler, UPI, May 13, 2013

[[ May 13 (UPI) -- High school English teacher Elizabeth Ethredge has filed suit against two students claiming she was suspended and may be fired because they told the principal that she had asked her class to stalk a suspected thief on Facebook. Ethredge claims she was giving an "oral storytelling" lesson in November 2012 when she told her class an anecdote about her son having personal property stolen at a high school in another district, reports Courthouse News Service.

[[ The complaint states that Ethredge "mentioned to her students that they might be able to help recover her son's property." She invited any student with a Facebook account to help by messaging the suspected thief to try and purchase the stolen item from him.

[[ Ethredge claims the two students only brought it up months later, in March of this year, when she sent them to the principal's office for disruptive behavior and a dress code violation.

[[ "Defendants wrote statements about the oral storytelling exercise that were clearly retaliatory in nature, designed to take the focus off of their inappropriate behavior and to instead focus the principal's attention on plaintiff," the complaint states.

[[ As further evidence of the students' alleged "deliberate and malicious intent to injure plaintiff's reputation," the complaint shows that one student posted a message to Facebook during school hours that said, "Hey Ethredge, "I threw stones at your house" what you got for me big bada**? Case closed!"

[[ The second student named in the suit commented on the post, saying "Hahahahah [expletive] ain't got [expletive]!"

[[ Days after the cited Facebook posts, the Board of Trustees of the Waller Independent School District proposed termination of Ethredge's employment.

[[ Ethredge seeks punitive damages for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. ]]

Source: http://www.upi.com/blog/2013/05/13/Texas-teacher-sues-two-students-for-defamation/3031368455783/