March 7, 2013
“Dr. David Mckee Seems Unaware That He Has Abused The Legal System To Torment Dennis Laurion For Exercising His Right To Free Speech”
Maura Larkins, San Diego Education Report Blog
Even after losing his defamation suit, Dr. David McKee seems unaware that he has abused the legal system to torment Dennis Laurion for exercising his right to free speech.
Even after losing his defamation lawsuit in the Minnesota Supreme Court ( 1), Dr. David McKee seems completely unaware that he has tormented a patient’s family for discussing his bedside manner on the Internet. (2)
Many people would consider Dr. McKee to be cowardly and relentless to have dragged a man through the courts simply for taking advantage of his First Amendment rights. The financial resources of the doctor and the man he sued were vastly disparate.
On February 7, 2013, Patient Advocate Trisha Torry (3) wrote about David McKee MD V. Dennis K. Laurion in About.com Guide. Defendant Dennis Laurion replied to her posting on February 7, 2013. On February 11, 2013, Ms. Torrey wrote another web posting. Plaintiff David McKee wrote to Patient Advocate Trisha Torrey to express his feelings. Defendant Dennis Laurion’s rebuttal and Torrey’s responses caused a three way argument on Tricia Torrey’s website. Nobody confined their responses to the same webpage, and some people were quoted in the Duluth (Minnesota) News Tribune, but the conversation is compiled in order below.
Dennis Laurion, FEB 7, 2013, About.com: Trisha, thanks for your coverage of David McKee vs. Dennis Laurion.
You said, “The reason Mr. Laurion didn’t lose the suit was because he related facts and observations – not opinions and generalities. That’s the real hot water test. The difference between recounting opinions vs facts can be the difference between winning and losing a defamation lawsuit.” I’ve learned that laws about slander and libel do not conform to one’s expectations. I’ve read that online complaints are safe “if you stick to the facts.” That’s exactly the wrong advice – at least in Minnesota. I did not want to merely post my conclusions. I wanted to stick to my recollection of what I’d heard. I don’t like to read generalities like “I’m upset. He did not treat my father well. He was insensitive. He didn’t spend enough time in my opinion.” However, such generalities are excused as opinion, hyperbole, or angry utterances. Had the Minnesota Supreme Court concluded that I offered facts, I’d be awaiting jury trial. It was, I believe, the conclusion that I’d offered opinions that caused dismissal.
You also said “He wrote reviews of Dr. McKee on 19 different websites, reporting, according to a Duluth (MN) news article in April 2011 ” 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, writing 19 letters, and posting 108 or 118 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. Several newspapers accounts have repeated assertions about how many letters I wrote and how many reviews I wrote. You’ll find accusations that I wrote 108 or 118 subsequent postings. You’ll find remarks that most were traced to a single IP address in Duluth. It wasn’t mine, and my internet provider tells me that nobody has ever asked about my IP address.
You also said “No matter what you think of the outcome of this lawsuit, know that it cost Dr. McKee more than $60,000 out of his pocket, including his attempt to try to repair his reputation.” 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.
Trisha Torrey FEB 7, 2013, About.com: Dennis, thank you for contributing to this report. I have corrected the statement about your father’s life and apologize for getting that wrong. Re: your report on how many comments were made, who made them, etc — you have enlightened us all…. And it proves exactly what I was saying – we cannot assume that anything we write online, especially through anger or frustration, can’t be tested at unlimited cost. The power still remains with the monied and we can’t forget that.
Tricia Torrey, FEB 11, 2013, About.com: Last week, I followed up on the final Minnesota Supreme Court verdict in the lawsuit where Dr. David McKee, a neurologist, sued his patient’s son, Kenneth Laurion, who was so unhappy with Dr. McKee’s treatment of his father, that he posted negative reviews all over the internet, citing Dr. McKee’s arrogance. And Dr. McKee is NOT happy with the verdict, or my assessment of it. In fact, he is so unhappy that he posted comments to the original post from 2011 ( 3 ), where I told you about the lawsuit when the first court reached a verdict. Because that post is so old, and therefore few would ever see the comments, I wanted to bring to your attention just what he said.
Dr. David McKee, FEB 10, 2013, About.com: Okay let me set you straight on a few things. First, Mr. Laurion and I do not agree at all as to what was said and what happened. More importantly, Mr. Laurion (the son, not the patient) contradicted his account of what happened numerous times. No Trisha, I am not a real SOB as you have concluded based on accepting the statements which I sued Laurion over as truthful. If they were truthful I would not have brought the suit forward. Dennis Laurion is a sick malicious bully. He wrote several versions of what transpired in his father’s hospital room, each more slanderous and exaggerated than the last. As an example, in the earliest versions of Laurion’s description, he mentioned, accurately, that I helped his father to a standing position. A later version stated that I pulled his father out of bed; still later that I jerked his father against a closed bedrail and against his will.
Laurion also complained that I humiliated his father by not tying the back of his father’s hospital gown. In fact, Dennis Laurion was sitting in a chair on the same side of his father’s bed as the patient. He would have needed only to lean forward a little to reach the ties of the gown. I was on the opposite side of the bed and could not have reached the back of the gown if I had wanted to.
Maura Larkins, MAR 7, 2013, San Diego Education Report: All three versions could be true. Since the father was unhappy to be standing in his skimpy gown, and he knew what kind of gown it was before he got up, it seems quite likely that he was not willing to get up. But really, why make such a big deal out of this sort of thing? Sometimes a doctor does have to demand that a patient stand up so that he knows how well the patient can stand. And it’s quite likely that a doctor would not want to use his well-educated hands to tie a dressing gown on a patient–I’m not saying I approve this attitude, just that I think it’s a common one.
Dennis Laurion, FEB 11, 2013, About.com: While my father was lying down, and when he was seated, I was unaware that the back string was untied. It was my father who mentioned his parting gown. We then insisted on leaving the room to wait in the hall. In my postings to the public, I stopped short of details that would have embarrassed my father but shared those details with a state agency. McKee is apparently including my comments to a state agency, while insisting he didn’t sue me for those contacts.
Dr. David McKee, FEB 10, 2013, About.com: After I left the patient’s room I was sitting at a nurses station only 30 feet from where Dennis Laurion was sitting and in plain sight. He could have discussed any concern with me then without the slightest difficulty. Instead he chose to begin his smear campaign against me. He fired off 19 letters of complaint within the next few days.
Dennis Laurion, FEB 11, 2013, About.com: Dr. McKee is apparently including letters that I wrote as a response to his suit.
Dr. David McKee, FEB 10, 2013, About.com: He tried for several weeks to get the local media outlets interested; none would have anything to do with him until he met up with Mark Stodghill of the Duluth News Tribune. The two of them met several times over a 2 week period to come up with a great doctor bashing piece of propaganda. Stodghill placed a call to my office at 4:55 p.m. on a Friday. I was not on call and had left for the day. This was the only attempt he made to contact me. The newspaper article came out only 10 hours later. Still the one half-hearted attempt to reach me allowed the reporter to accurately state that “calls to Dr. McKee were not returned”, implying that I had something to hide. The article was so biased that of approximately 80 conversations with patients who brought up the matter, only 2 understood that I was suing Laurion; the rest misunderstood and believed I was being sued by Laurion.
Dennis Laurion, FEB 11, 2013, About.com: When McKee sent a threat letter, I asked three local media outlets if such a suit would be a “man bites dog” story. I never mentioned Dr. McKee’s name and would not have, had there been no suit. In spite of follow-up inquiries by the press, I demurred giving his name until a public record existed. On the day of filing, Mr. Stodghill found the public record without my prompting and ran the story. Mr Stodghill contacted me once by email and once by phone. We did not meet over any time period, and I did not recognize Mr. Stodghill, when he was covering my first court appearance.
Fred Friedman, Chief Public Defender, Northeastern Minnesota, AUG 2, 2013, Duluth News Tribune: Mark Stodghill and I go back a long way. Long before Mark covered courts and crime for the News Tribune, we shared stories and interests in baseball, basketball, nonfiction books and the complications of father-son relationships, both in terms of our fathers and our sons. We have friends in common for the past 40 years.
I saw Mark gain interest in running and lose interest in professional sports. I followed Mark’s career going from a writer to a columnist to a writer. I miss Mark’s columns, both the ones that were popular and the ones when he got ripped (a Stodghill slang word, incidentally).
As a writer covering the courts beat, he had a tough job. Court cases are all about advocacy, and everyone including me thinks they have the corner on fairness and justice. Avoiding saying something foolish is always the No. 1 goal. Mark was good at understanding our job but never forgetting his.
The best writers, including Mark, tell a good story in a fair way and always invite comment from the participants before publication. I know he endeavored to be fair and thorough. I do not believe some copy editors and headline writers Mark worked with always shared that commitment. I always have wondered how many reporters, including Mark, resented headline writers who missed the point and copy editors who sliced up a story beyond recognition, either looking for sensationalism or looking to save an inch.
Finally, Mark Stodghill enjoyed a youth that most men could only imagine. He was a schoolboy pitching star; bat boy for the Minnesota Twins, including during the 1965 World Series and All Star Game; and was up-close and personal with Twins greats Harmon Killebrew (Mark’s favorite, after his father), Tony Oliva and Rod Carew and with baseball greats Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax and more. He also was a ball boy for the Minnesota Vikings, a Vietnam-era U.S. Air Force veteran and a college basketball star who sometimes got to write on anything he wanted, earning the respect of his peers and friends.
Mark S. Rubin, St. Louis County Attorney, AUG 2, 2013, Duluth News Tribune: I learned recently Iceland is rewriting its constitution. The primary agreed-upon theme is, of course, liberty. The second primary principle is responsibility. Interesting, don’t you think? I will bet that to our Founding Fathers, “responsibility” was considered a given in our Constitution, and it wasn’t necessary to make specific mention of it.
A free press is a critical component for preserving and growing our still-evolving democracy. Today News Tribune journalist Mark Stodghill retires. He has practiced his craft with the utmost of integrity and responsibility. Just ask anyone who has worked in the courts and criminal justice system over the last 35 years; they will tell you Mark was respectfully relentless in his efforts to get his stories right.
We are a better-informed community, our liberty is stronger, and our citizens are more enlightened and thus empowered because of Mark’s recognition and understanding of his responsibility to his craft. His goal was to report the truth — the facts — about some of the most tragic and difficult stories imaginable. Time and time again he succeeded.
Mark Stodghill is a Vietnam veteran deserving of our gratitude, a marathon athlete who leaves us in awe, and a husband and father who loves and cares deeply. And yes, he is a journalist who saw, accepted and carried out his responsibility to his fellow citizens in our sometimes-fragile democracy. He is and will continue to be the standard for the next generation to follow.
Gordon Ramsay, Duluth Police Chief, AUG 2, 2013, Duluth News Tribune: Mark Stodghill, a talented, old-school journalist with a conscience, will walk out the doors of the News Tribune today for the last time and into retirement.
He’s a fascinating guy who has done a lot in his life and who has covered a lot of different beats since the 1970s. For the past 15 years or so he covered police and courts. When horrible crime and its impacts on families and communities happened, Mark usually was there.
For the first time in many years, Mark Stodghill’s familiar name will not appear in a byline. He will no longer have to try to interview grieving family or be accused of demonizing a family member who committed a crime.
I know Mark worked diligently to always be fair to victims and suspects alike. When a family member or friend was upset with a story he wrote, Mark took it to heart. He cared about getting his stories right and worked diligently to ensure they were accurate.
He would sometimes tell me about incidents where upset family members had contacted him and accused him of shedding bad light on their loved one. He was bothered by this element of his job; I would attribute that to his strong character.
No one could ever accuse Mark of being a sensationalist writer. Rather, he’s a talented, old-school journalist with a conscience who won’t be easily replaced.
Dr. David Mckee, FEB 10, 2013, About.com: I have been the victim of a cowardly relentless series of attacks by a truly sick human being. The fact that you appear to always assume that if a complaint is made against a physician, the physician must be in the wrong, makes you little better than Mark Stodghill who was willing to use the lowest possible journalistic standards seemingly designed to get the story wrong so as to allow for the most inflammatory headline possible.
Dennis Laurion, FEB 11, 2013, About.com: McKee has learned to exercise his own free-speech rights. In earlier responses to publicity, I’ve been called an oddball sort of fellow, passive-aggressive, liar, bully, coward, and malicious person. I think somebody should have told McKee about the Streisand Effect.
Trisha Torrey, FEB 11, 2013, About.com: This is strictly “he said, he said” – and it cannot be recreated or witnessed. That means we are left with the perceptions of the two people involved and, truthfully, neither one of you gets big points for handling this well.
However, YOU are the professional. As such, part of your responsibility is to communicate clearly and with enough compassion and empathy that your patients and their loved ones don’t misunderstand what you have said, decided, ordered or done.
Look – I can understand that you were upset at what he said about what he perceived as your arrogance. But as is true in any form of communication – perception is the receiver’s reality. Had you not come across as brusque, callous, disrespectful, arrogant, or any other adjective for disconnected one can use, Mr. Laurion would not have pursued a public punishment for you.
And when he did, I dare say, fixing it would have required only an apology from you, whether or not you agreed with his perception. Two words, “I’m sorry,” would have made a world of difference.
Would that have been so difficult? Evidently, yes. The fact that you are now calling him names as if you were both in middle school speaks volumes. Even if Mr. Laurion is a bully, that must have been triggered by something. So instead of taking care of it the way a professional should, you instead chose to escalate the problem. Unprofessional and undignified.
Sadly (from your perspective), instead you have become the poster boy for doctors who don’t communicate well, providing a lesson for all doctors who arrogantly treat their patients and families like second-class citizens. You may have outstanding neurology skills (I have no idea if you do or don’t), but if you can’t communicate respectfully, clearly and with empathy, then your skills as a physician are lacking, and your patients and their families are not being well-served.
Dr. David McKee, FEB 12, 2013, About.com: Trisha, just read the first sentence of your post. You concluded by the fact that Laurion made disparaging (and inaccurate) comments and complaints that “…Dr McKee must have been a real SOB, abrupt and rude at the very least” You had no grounds for such an emphatic conclusion. The conclusion is reasonable only if you somehow know the statements made by Laurion are accurate. The fact that I brought a lawsuit against him for inaccurately portraying my interaction with his father should cast enough doubt to preclude your statement presented as fact. You also concluded that because I responded to your defamatory statement I proved your original premise….HUH???
So the doctor is wrong because Laurion says he behaved poorly and the doctor is wrong again because he responds to your unfounded and malignant comments. Nice.
As for Laurion’s recent responses they are inaccurate and very disingenuous and he knows it.
He did file 19 letters of complaint based on an innocuous interaction with his father; including 2 complaints to the MN Board of Medical Practice. The second was filed as if written by his wife; though in deposition his wife acknowledged Laurion wrote both letters (the second was an exaggeration of the first; neither resulted in any action by the board). There is substantial evidence that on learning that his original motion to dismiss was going to be acted on favorably he and others encouraged by Laurion, made roughly 120 negative entries on various doctor rating sites. This occurred in a 2 day period and before the court’s decision was made public. There is no chance that this was action taken by actual patients or that it occurred spontaneously. Yes I think the term bully is, if anything an understatement.
As for Laurion’s suggestion that he is somehow a victim of a game of financial attrition. He was given multiple opportunities to settle without financial demands. When he was deposed he acknowledged that he went back on the offensive despite the very early option of settling at essentially no cost. The 120 March 2011 postings will likely form the basis of a second suit. Laurion has repeatedly refused to guarantee that he will not engage in further slander so I really have no option here. One of the great injustices is that people like you assume the physician must be at fault and are willing to attack without bothering to investigate. Your illogical deductions are not investigation. In the end, the negative commentary sticks to the physician as a permanent aspect of his reputation whereas people like you profit whether your statements are accurate or not. For Laurion to cast himself as the victim of my responses is cynical beyond measure.
Since you choose to reach your conclusions by inference you might chew on this. I have been in practice for 22 years. I have evaluated over 20,000 patients during that time. I estimate that, on average I have met one family member for each patient. Conservatively that makes 40,000 patients and family members. Dennis Laurion’s 19 letters of complaint amount to 75% of the complaints I have received in total vs. hundreds of letters thanks, gratitude etc. But it is primarily Laurion’s mischief that shows up when patients, friends, family research my name.
Trisha, I think it is your arrogance that is the real problem here. You are so self certain that you can determine right and wrong by inference that investigation is not needed. I am not going to make any further posts on this site but you need to clean up your act.
Dennis Laurion, FEB 21, 2013, About.com: Dr. McKee has said “Mr Laurion and I do not agree at all as to what was said and what happened.” I agree.