SEPTEMBER 26, 2013
“Doctors, Patients Battle Over Online Critiques”
Liz Kowalczyk, Boston Globe
Gary Votour’s wife, Lyn, died of complications from bone cancer and soon after, he blogged about his dissatisfaction with the medical care Dr. Sagun Tuli had given her. Dr. Tuli filed a $100,000 defamation lawsuit against him in Middlesex Superior Court in February.
Votour – who owes thousands of dollars in credit card debt for expenses related to Lyn’s illness – was taken under the wing of major Boston lawfirm, WilmerHale, which agreed to represent him free of charge.
The case was moved to federal court in Boston and Votour’s attorney, Adam Hornstine, has filed a motion to dismiss Tuli’s lawsuit. The firm believes the case may have broader implications: Among other reasons, Hornstine has filed a potential challenge with the court and Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office to a state law that can hold people liable for making true statements under certain circumstances, which he argues is unconstitutional. “It’s an affirmative defense protecting my right to free speech,’’ said Votour, who said he posted the blog because Tuli refused to meet with him to answer questions about a stroke his wife suffered during surgery.
While Votour took down his blog in February, he said settlement talks with Tuli have failed so far.
Tuli’s attorney, David Rich, said he could not comment on the case. But he told me last Spring that Votour’s criticisms were false and that the blog damaged his client’s career.
This lawsuit is part of a wave of claims brought by doctors against former patients, and sometimes their relatives, over negative ratings and reviews they have posted on the Internet. These reviews have shifted the balance of power among doctors and patients.