The Strategy Is “To Force The Other Person To Incur Huge Legal expenses That Will Deter Them And Others . . . “

August 27, 2001

“Company Sues Over Info Put On Yahoo Message Board”

MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL STAR TRIBUNE / SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE

Reprinted July 31, 2014 in AUGUSTA CHRONICLE

Treading into an important new area of Internet law, Nash Finch Co. has filed a lawsuit alleging that some people – possibly employees – have posted confidential information about the company on a Yahoo message board.

Courts, companies and often their current and former employees are working out what legally can be said about businesses on the Internet. The lawsuit by Nash Finch, a food wholesaler and retailer based in Edina, Minn., is an example of how companies are changing their legal strategies to go after people they believe have said harmful things about them on the Internet.

Normally, companies had slapped people with lawsuits that alleged libel, and individuals had defended themselves by saying their speech was protected by the First Amendment. But the companies that go after them have begun trying to get around that by alleging that such individuals did other things wrong, too.

The Nash Finch lawsuit, for example, claims breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets. If the defendants turn out to be Nash Finch employees, they have violated the company’s Code of Ethics and Business Conduct and Associate Handbook, the suit alleges.

Filed late last month in Santa Clara County, Calif., the suit did not name defendants specifically, but called them (John) “Does” 1 through 50. The company said it will amend its lawsuit once it learns the identities of those involved. To do that, Nash Finch lawyers are seeking to subpoena from Yahoo the real identities of the people who wrote the postings under made-up screen names.

A Nash Finch spokeswoman confirmed the company has filed the lawsuit, but declined further comment. The company has hired Allison Chock of the California-based law firm of Latham & Watkins, who also declined to comment.

Details and dates of the specific Yahoo postings are unknown, but recent postings by someone alleging to be a former board member are highly critical of Nash Finch CEO Ron Marshall, who joined the firm in 1998. One of the postings questioned Marshall’s integrity while another casts doubt on the validity of the company’s financial reports. Neither specified any particular wrongdoing.

The information placed on the Nash Finch message board has caused “irreparable injury” to its business, the suit alleges.

So what can you say about a company on the Internet?

Message-board participants have the right under the First Amendment to voice their opinions. That freedom is troublesome for companies and their legal and public-relations staffs, which wince about the complaints and scramble to correct inaccurate information that could be posted by consumers, investors, employees or competitors.

If a company sues, alleging simple business disparagement or perhaps defamation, its goal isn’t necessarily to win, said Marshall Tanick, a First Amendment expert at Mansfield & Tanick in Minneapolis. The strategy is “to force the other person to incur huge legal expenses that will deter them and others” from making such statements, he said. Companies typically shy from suing customers because it creates bad publicity. Thus, much of the legal activity involves employees or former workers. “I’m seeing it happen with increasing frequency … yet very few (cases) go all the way” to trial and verdict, Tanick said. A company’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 difficult to win. One option is to allege breach of contract or violation of trade secrets rather than defamation, he said.

FULL ARTICLE

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Web Posting

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Patient Complaint

Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply To Patient Complaint

Plaintiff David McKee’s Cease And Desist Letter To Defendant Dennis Laurion

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Complaint To Minnesota Board Of Medical Practice

Plaintiff David McKee’s Complaint To Sixth Judicial District Duluth Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Response To Minnesota Board Of Medical Practice

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Answer To Plaintiff David McKee’s Complaint

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Motion For Summary Judgment

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Deposition Extracts

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Circumstances Before Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Circumstances After Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony In Response To Questions By Marshall Tanick

Affidavits By Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Parents

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Supplemental Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Motion To Oppose Summary Judgment

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Reply Memo In Support Of Motion For Summary Judgment

Sixth Judicial District Court’s Order On Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Appeal Of Order On Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Minnesota Court Of Appeals Order To Strike Portion Of Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply Brief

Minnesota Court Of Appeals Announces Decision

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Petition For Review By Minnesota Supreme Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Opposition To Review By Minnesota Supreme Court

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Reply Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Minnesota Supreme Court Decision On David McKee MD V. Dennis K. Laurion

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2010

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2011

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2012

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2013

McKee V Laurion Is A Textbook Case

STAR TRIBUNE: “Judge Throws Out Neurologist’s Defamation Lawsuit Against Patient’s Son”

APRIL 29, 2011

“Judge Throws Out Neurologist’s Defamation Lawsuit Against Patient’s Son”
STAR TRIBUNE

DULUTH, Minn. – A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Duluth neurologist who claimed he was defamed by a patient’s son who criticized the doctor’s bedside manner.

Dr. David McKee alleged in his lawsuit that Dennis Laurion of Duluth made false statements about McKee’s treatment of Laurion’s father to the American Academy of Neurology, St. Luke’s Hospital, colleagues and others. The lawsuit said Laurion alleged McKee failed to treat his father with dignity following a stroke and told him he didn’t need therapy.

McKee tells the Duluth News Tribune that Laurion is “a liar and a bully and a coward.” McKee says he hasn’t decided whether he will appeal Judge Eric Hylden’s ruling. The judge said Laurion’s statements as a whole were not defamatory, but rather “an emotional discussion of the issues.”

Laurion says the lawsuit has been stressful for his whole family and he’s grateful the judge found no need for a trial.

COMMENTS

Nomeds : Wow, if the good Doctor was concerned about the statments made by another, he should really be concerned that this has hit the newspapers.

rusty123: Sounds like the good doctor needs to go back to school to learn the definition of defamatory.

dymoman: Wow, a “good doctor” says that Laurion is “liar, bully, coward”. Sounds like a defamation to me.

drfrankt:  2 classes that should be required for MD’s before graduation and licensure…Bedside Manners (you are not infallible) and Legible Handwriting!

whadjawant:  we need to get over the “doctor-god-complex” we’ve evolved. (1) doctors are human and fallible. (2) their mistakes should be public knowledge – just like mechanics and plubmers – its ok to share information – in PUBLIC formums. (3) patients need to know what the doctors are like AND what the persons complaining about them is like. Fair is Fair.

goferfanz: More proof the civil courtroom is run by lawyers, for trial lawyers. For all the inane medmal lawsuits that go to trial, this one cant even get to a courtroom? Ah yes, our civil courts—>probably the top reason that American jobs have gone overseas (what does Walmart get, like 20 new civil lawsuits a day?). How’s the economy everyone……ask a lawyer, starting with Barry and his pals!

mattmosc: This doctor was my brother-in-laws neurologist. He knows his craft well, but he is short, curt and to the point when he was giving the family his outcome. I was happy he didn’t beat around the bush. Sadly he passed away, but he did not give us false hope!

minnesotacha: I see your point. We should give as much money as possible to corporations, who will surely put the concerns of average citizens such as ourselves above menial profits. We should also do away with the First Amendment so these wonderful companies do not have to hear criticisms which, by definition, must be false.

swmnguy:  Thanks for the insight. That’s what I was suspecting about this doctor from reading the story. Some of these high-powered specialists are almost like people with Asperger’s, in their lack of tact. Beyond the lack of tact, they often don’t listen to advice. The doctor ought to be better with patients’ families, but he’s human so he isn’t. But he also ought to have the sense to leave a bad situation alone and not try to sue under these circumstances. Now he’s goofed twice. Whether he likes it or not, he is in a field that deals with the public. If he’s not capable of it, he needs to hire a personal assistant who is. But guys like this are often so out of sync with normal human emotions they can’t even tell how out of sync they are and they can’t imagine how other people get so upset by them.

FULL ARTICLE

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Web Posting

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Patient Complaint

Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply To Patient Complaint

Plaintiff David McKee’s Cease And Desist Letter To Defendant Dennis Laurion

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Complaint To Minnesota Board Of Medical Practice

Plaintiff David McKee’s Complaint To Sixth Judicial District Duluth Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Response To Minnesota Board Of Medical Practice

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Answer To Plaintiff David McKee’s Complaint

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Motion For Summary Judgment

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Deposition Extracts

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Circumstances Before Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Circumstances After Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony In Response To Questions By Marshall Tanick

Affidavits By Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Parents

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Supplemental Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Motion To Oppose Summary Judgment

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Reply Memo In Support Of Motion For Summary Judgment

Sixth Judicial District Court’s Order On Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Appeal Of Order On Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Minnesota Court Of Appeals Order To Strike Portion Of Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply Brief

Minnesota Court Of Appeals Announces Decision

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Petition For Review By Minnesota Supreme Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Opposition To Review By Minnesota Supreme Court

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Reply Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Minnesota Supreme Court Decision On David McKee MD V. Dennis K. Laurion

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2010

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2011

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2012

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2013

McKee V Laurion Is A Textbook Case

DULUTH NEWS TRIBUNE: “Judge Tosses Duluth Doctor’s Suit Against Patient’s Family”

Image-Duluth-News-Tribune

APRIL 28, 2011

“Judge Tosses Duluth Doctor’s Suit Against Patient’s Family”
Mark Stodghill, DULUTH NEWS TRIBUNE

A judge threw out a lawsuit filed by a Duluth physician who said he was defamed by a man who publicly criticized his bedside manner.

Dr. David McKee, a neurologist with Northland Neurology and Myology, alleged that Dennis Laurion of Duluth defamed him and interfered with his business by making false statements to the American Academy of Neurology, the American Neurological Association, two physicians in Duluth, the St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services Advisory Committee and St. Luke’s hospital, among others.

Laurion was critical of the treatment his father, Kenneth, received from McKee after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke and spending four days at St. Luke’s hospital from April 17-21 last year. Kenneth Laurion recovered from his condition.

Dennis Laurion claimed that any statements he made about the doctor were true and that he was immune from any liability to the plaintiff.

In his 18-page order dismissing the suit, Sixth Judicial District Judge Eric Hylden wrote that looking at Laurion’s “statements as a whole, the court does not find defamatory meaning, but rather a sometimes emotional discussion of the issues.”

Hylden addressed the fact that Laurion posted some of his criticisms of McKee on websites. “In modern society, there needs to be some give and take, some ability for parties to air their differences,” the judge wrote. “Today, those disagreements may take place on various Internet sources. Because the medium has changed, however, does not make statements of this sort any more or less defamatory.”

Hylden concluded his order by stating that there wasn’t enough objective information provided to justify asking a jury to decide the matter.

Laurion was relieved by the court’s ruling. “My parents, who are now 86, my wife, and I have found this process very stressful for the past year, since my father’s stroke. There was never just one defendant,” he said. “We’re grateful that Judge Hylden found no need for a trial.”

In his suit, McKee alleged that Laurion made false statements including that McKee “seemed upset” that Kenneth Laurion had been transferred from the Intensive Care Unit to a ward room; that McKee told the Laurion family that he had to “spend time finding out if [the patient] had been transferred or died;” that McKee told the Laurions that 44 percent of hemorrhagic stroke victims die within 30 days; that McKee told the patient that he didn’t need therapy; that McKee said it didn’t matter that the patient’s gown was hanging from his neck with his backside exposed; that McKee blamed the patient for the loss of his time; and that McKee didn’t treat his patient with dignity.

FULL ARTICLE

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Web Posting

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Patient Complaint

Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply To Patient Complaint

Plaintiff David McKee’s Cease And Desist Letter To Defendant Dennis Laurion

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Complaint To Minnesota Board Of Medical Practice

Plaintiff David McKee’s Complaint To Sixth Judicial District Duluth Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Response To Minnesota Board Of Medical Practice

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Answer To Plaintiff David McKee’s Complaint

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Motion For Summary Judgment

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Deposition Extracts

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Circumstances Before Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Circumstances After Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony In Response To Questions By Marshall Tanick

Affidavits By Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Parents

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Supplemental Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Motion To Oppose Summary Judgment

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Reply Memo In Support Of Motion For Summary Judgment

Sixth Judicial District Court’s Order On Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Appeal Of Order On Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Minnesota Court Of Appeals Order To Strike Portion Of Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply Brief

Minnesota Court Of Appeals Announces Decision

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Petition For Review By Minnesota Supreme Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Opposition To Review By Minnesota Supreme Court

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Reply Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Minnesota Supreme Court Decision On David McKee MD V. Dennis K. Laurion

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2010

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2011

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2012

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2013

McKee V Laurion Is A Textbook Case

ALERT PRESENCE: “A Physician Review Gone Wrong”

MARCH 24, 2011

“A Physician Review Gone Wrong”

Brett Pollard, ALERT PRESENCE

For several years now, I have been actively involved in issues related to reputation management for physicians. It’s an issue I’ve discussed at length with clients and offered thoughts on this blog. Through my research, I have come across some pretty interesting examples of the challenges physicians face in a world where there are dozens of online review sites. However, I stumbled across a very interesting situation where a doctor’s decision to sue the son of one of his patients for a negative review resulted in a reputation disaster.

After the lawsuit was detailed twice in a Minnesota newspaper, a local resident took action by posting a critical comment and link (screenshot below) on the social news site, Reddit. With a user-controlled ranking system Reddit features the most popular posts to an audience generating over 1 million page visits per day. As you might expect, negative exposure on a site like this leads to undesirable consequences.

I have no interest in offering insight into the specifics of the legal matter as my knowledge of how this all transpired is limited to the information provided in the newspaper articles. However, the fallout from the lawsuit certainly warrants exploration. There is something to be learned from this for those in a position to advise physicians about appropriate responses to negative reviews. It’s necessary to have an understanding of the potential backlash if your response is not well received by the general public. This situation also illustrates the need to have a strategy to help prevent a scenario that may lead to irreparable harm to the physician’s reputation.

Timeline and Consequences

June of 2010 – A doctor from Duluth, Minnesota files a lawsuit against the son of a former patient claiming the son made defamatory statements about his father’s care. The statements were allegedly posted on a physician review site in addition to complaints lodged with the associated hospital and other third parties. The local paper publishes an article reporting the lawsuit where the defendant’s lawyer admits his client posted the negative review but later requested successfully for it to be removed from the site.

February 2011 – The local newspaper publishes a follow up story regarding the lawsuit with an update of the legal proceedings.

March 2011 – A regular user of the social news website, Reddit, posted a link to the story on March 21st, 2011 while suggesting the Reddit community should post poor ratings for this doctor on various physician review sites.

A simple Google search reveals this is exactly what happened. After examining some of the top search results for the doctor’s name, it is clear the Reddit post triggered a large number of negative reviews – many of which are clearly fabricated. The following is just a sample of what I found.

Google Place Page – Since Google pulls in reviews from various sources, my focus was only on those reviews posted through the Google Review service. There were 33 reviews (all of which were negative) and every one was posted on March 22nd or later.

Vitals – There were a total of 39 written reviews. 32 of the reviews were posted on March 21st or later and each one was negative.

Healthgrades – There were 34 patient ratings on Healthgrades (mostly negative). In this case, the dates of each review are not posted so it’s unclear how many of them are a result of the Reddit community response.

I’m not all that surprised by the backlash – especially considering the story gained considerable traction on Reddit. It’s just another good example of the viral power social media possesses.

Filing a lawsuit against a patient for a negative review is a very slippery slope – even if the statements are defamatory. What alternative actions exist for dealing with a harmful or misleading review? This question is generic and does not imply the patient in this case made any defamatory statements. That is for the courts to decide.

Brett Pollard is an online marketing consultant specializing in web 2.0 strategies, local search, SEO, ORM and social media for the healthcare industry and small/medium-sized businesses. With over a decade of Internet marketing experience for private ventures, Brett now shares his expertise with clients throughout North America.

Comments:

Lora Baker:

Wow -just checked his Google reviews. They are so obviously fake that it is hard to believe they are still posted. Unfortunately for this doctor, his choices have resulted in nationwide backlash. If any prospective patient looks him up before calling, they will clearly choose another doctor. I recommend to our clients to work out bad reviews with the reviewer if possible – behind the scenes. If not, most potential clients understand that everyone can end up with a bad review or 2 -most people are more motivated to leave a review if they are upset. Now, Dr. David McKee has so much (fake) bad feedback out there that his reputation is in tatters. Yikes -so glad he is not my client!

Susan January:

The Minnesota State Court of Appeals has issued an opinion. Filed January 23, 2012. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. The interfering with business claim was dismissed as being without merit. The patient’s son’s comments are exhaustively reviewed by the court and classified as either opinion (dismissed) or factual assertions. Since the asserted facts of the situation are for a jury to decide, on 6 picky little points the doctor is entitled to a jury trial to determine the facts. The factual assertions that are in dispute verge on opinions or beliefs, because the doctor and the patient’s son dispute what was said and/or what was meant by what was said. They thought he was a jerk, the doctor says he was joking or being friendly or didn’t see them or they don’t understand what he meant. Good example of taking things way too far and doing more damage in the process. Good grief.

Susan February:

My husband is a top performing Cardiac surgeon with great results.But a college of his who has been banned from operating due to disruptive behaviour is writing bad reviews of him on vitals. How I know this is that every time he gives himself a gret review,he gives my husband a bad one.And a doctor who has nor done heart surgery for 6 months is getting great reviews and a doctor working evey day -24hrs with all his patients going home in less than 3-4 days is getting bad reviews –on VITALS -something needs to be seriously done.

Samantha Theras:

This can be so frustrating to deal with. Numerous websites online are misleading and fighting bad online reviews with litigation has proven itself time and again to have the worst consequences. The results are never what you expect them to be. I’m sympathetic to some situations in where it is a legitimate review with constructive criticism although, some reviews can be and are bogus. http://searchrespect.com is a site I found to be of assistance.

FULL ARTICLE

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Web Posting

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Patient Complaint

Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply To Patient Complaint

Plaintiff David McKee’s Cease And Desist Letter To Defendant Dennis Laurion

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Complaint To Minnesota Board Of Medical Practice

Plaintiff David McKee’s Complaint To Sixth Judicial District Duluth Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Response To Minnesota Board Of Medical Practice

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Answer To Plaintiff David McKee’s Complaint

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Motion For Summary Judgment

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Deposition Extracts

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Circumstances Before Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Circumstances After Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony In Response To Questions By Marshall Tanick

Affidavits By Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Parents

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Supplemental Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Motion To Oppose Summary Judgment

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Reply Memo In Support Of Motion For Summary Judgment

Sixth Judicial District Court’s Order On Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Appeal Of Order On Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Minnesota Court Of Appeals Order To Strike Portion Of Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply Brief

Minnesota Court Of Appeals Announces Decision

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Petition For Review By Minnesota Supreme Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Opposition To Review By Minnesota Supreme Court

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Reply Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Minnesota Supreme Court Decision On David McKee MD V. Dennis K. Laurion

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2010

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2011

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2012

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2013

McKee V Laurion Is A Textbook Case

Minnesota Doctor Sues For Defamation Over Online Rating

Image-Duluth-News-Tribune

February 10, 2011

“Duluth Man Fights Defamation Suit By Doctor He Criticized”

Mark Stodghill, DULUTH NEWS TRIBUNE

A Duluth physician who sued a patient’s son for defamation was in court as the son attempted to have the case thrown out. Dr. David McKee, a neurologist with Northland Neurology and Myology, Duluth, Minnesota, filed the lawsuit against Dennis Laurion of Duluth in St. Louis County District Court in 2010. McKee alleges that Laurion defamed him and interfered with his business by criticizing him by making false statements on websites and to various third parties including other physicians in Duluth, the St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services Advisory Committee, St. Luke’s hospital and professional organizations.

Laurion’s father, Kenneth, now 85 and a Navy combat medic in the Solomon Islands during World War II, suffered a hemorrhagic stroke and was treated by McKee at St. Luke’s hospital April 19. He recovered from his condition. However, he and his family allege that McKee was rude and insensitive to the patient in his actions and comments.

The defendants claim that when McKee didn’t find Kenneth Laurion in the Intensive Care Unit, he said: “I had to find out whether you had transferred or died.” McKee confirmed in deposition that he made the statement, but claimed it was a jocular comment meant to relieve tension.

Kenneth Laurion, his defendant son, and daughter-in-law were in the courtroom Thursday, as was plaintiff McKee. McKee is asking for more than $50,000 in damages. Laurion claims that any statements he made about the doctor were true and that he is immune from any liability.

Duluth defense attorney John Kelly argued that his client’s statements were substantially true, were statements of opinion and couldn’t be demonstrated to be false. “He is standing up and speaking out for his father. That is his motivation … in the hope that something gets done,” Kelly told the court.

McKee is represented by Minneapolis attorney Marshall Tanick. Tanick told the court that Laurion used the websites as a “weapon of mass destruction” to injure the reputation of McKee, place the doctor in a negative light and impugn his professional practice.

In a written motion, Tanick wrote, “The totality of statements made on these websites would be injurious to the reputation and standing of a doctor in the eyes of others who might see it, including patients or prospective patients, colleagues, peers, referral sources, and others.”

Sixth Judicial District Judge Eric Hylden is presiding over the case. As the parties introduced themselves to the court, Hylden told them it was a “very interesting type of case.”

Thinking out loud, Hylden suggested that Laurion has a constitutionally protected right to an opinion, but “isn’t there some limitation on what a person can say in that public forum?”

Kelly said his client made his statements of opinion in good faith and they were not demonstratively false. “There has to be a protected area in which someone like Dennis Laurion can come forward, stand up and speak for his father and say, ‘Look, in this particular instance, my father didn’t get treated very well and you ought to know that.’ ”

Tanick argued that Laurion’s criticism goes much farther than that. “He chose to tell the world at large in a way that was injurious to Dr. McKee’s reputation,” Tanick said.

FULL ARTICLE

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Web Posting

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Patient Complaint

Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply To Patient Complaint

Plaintiff David McKee’s Cease And Desist Letter To Defendant Dennis Laurion

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Complaint To Minnesota Board Of Medical Practice

Plaintiff David McKee’s Complaint To Sixth Judicial District Duluth Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Response To Minnesota Board Of Medical Practice

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Answer To Plaintiff David McKee’s Complaint

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Motion For Summary Judgment

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Deposition Extracts

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Circumstances Before Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Circumstances After Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony In Response To Questions By Marshall Tanick

Affidavits By Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Parents

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Supplemental Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Motion To Oppose Summary Judgment

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Reply Memo In Support Of Motion For Summary Judgment

Sixth Judicial District Court’s Order On Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Appeal Of Order On Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Minnesota Court Of Appeals Order To Strike Portion Of Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply Brief

Minnesota Court Of Appeals Announces Decision

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Petition For Review By Minnesota Supreme Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Opposition To Review By Minnesota Supreme Court

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Reply Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Minnesota Supreme Court Decision On David McKee MD V. Dennis K. Laurion

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2010

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2011

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2012

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2013

McKee V Laurion Is A Textbook Case

 

DOCTOR BASE: “What Not To Do With A Negative Review Part II”

MAY 23, 2011

“What Not To Do With A Negative Review Part II”

Mike Haverhals, DOCTOR BASE

Last year we told you about a dentist, Dr. Yvonne Wong, who filed a lawsuit against both Yelp & her own patient over the negative review the patient posted online. This week, we almost titled this post “We should start charging $80k for access to the DoctorBase blog.” Don’t worry, we’d never charge anyone for access to the truth. But, here’s why we’d even make such a statement:

  • As far back as 2009, we explained how a lawsuit against Yelp would be fruitless since they were only the provider (and not the publisher) which gives them immunity under the Communications Decency Act. Accordingly, the judge dismissed Dr. Wong’s lawsuit against Yelp.
  • We again explained how anti-SLAPP protections give patients rights against being sued for leaving online reviews. Accordingly, the judge dismissed Dr. Wong’s lawsuit against her own patients.
  • In the same post, we also touched on the Streisand-effect, where attempting to stifle free speech online can backfire horribly in the form of a whole lot of bad press. Try typing “dentist yvonne wong” into Google and you’ll find Google Instant suggesting “dentist yvonne wong yelp” – which returns a page of search results about the doctor’s lawsuit against her own patients.

Well, it got even worse for Dr. Wong. The judge ruled that, because the lawsuits had no legal standing, Dr. Wong would have to cover the legal fees of the defendants named in her lawsuits. That’s right, in addition to having the lawsuits dismissed & her own legal fees, she now has to pay an additional $80,714.

Let’s recap: Don’t sue your patients!!!

Instead of getting litigious over an occasional negative review, get proactive with your positive reviews. With the time Dr. Wong spent on fruitless lawsuits, she could have amassed enough positive reviews from her happy patients to never have to worry about another negative review again.

FULL ARTICLE

DOCTOR BASE: “What Not To Do With A Negative Review”

Doctor David McKee

SEPTEMBER 6, 2010

“What Not To Do With A Negative Review”

Mike Haverhals, DOCTOR BASE

We get a lot of questions about what to do about the dreaded negative review if-and-when it rears its ugly head. Obviously, the first thing you should do is contact the patient privately to resolve the issue. More often than not, these issues can be easily resolved when the doctor takes the time to listen to the patient’s concerns. In the event that you can’t resolve the problem at hand, the next thing to do is even simpler – do nothing. The truth is, a negative isn’t the worst thing ever – unless you make it the worst thing ever.

You could reply publicly to the review, dragging yourself down into a online mud-slinging contest & potentially violating HIPAA laws by disclosing the patient’s Protected Health Information in an attempt to defend yourself.

You can always threaten to sue the review site, incurring a massive legal bill for nothing since review sites are only ‘content providers’ and not legally responsible for what users post.

You could also threaten to sue the reviewer, again incurring a massive legal bill for nothing since the lawsuit will be thrown out under the anti-SLAPP law. (The law barring any “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.)

Unfortunately, all of these approaches will also serve to do you more harm than good. It’s something we online geeks refer to as the “Streisand Effect.” When Streisand took legal action to force the removal of online images of her beachfront property from a website documenting the California Coastline, what resulted was even more publicity around the images, along with negative publicity around Streisand’s attempt to censor the photographer. (Which failed, as the lawsuit was thrown out under anti-SLAPP laws.) Don’t fall into the same trap.

Simply let it go. Instead, focus on getting more positive reviews online to drastically outweigh the occasional negative one. Like we always tell doctors – people don’t expect perfection, they do expect honesty. When potential patients find out you’re trying to muzzle your exiting patients, they’ll go elsewhere looking for an honest doctor. One who’s confident enough in their own abilities not to be concerned with covering up a negative review.

FULL ARTICLE

David McKee, MD, v. Dennis K. Laurion

Yvonne Wong, DDS, v. Tai Jing

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Web Posting

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Patient Complaint

Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply To Patient Complaint

Plaintiff David McKee’s Cease And Desist Letter To Defendant Dennis Laurion

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Complaint To Minnesota Board Of Medical Practice

Plaintiff David McKee’s Complaint To Sixth Judicial District Duluth Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Response To Minnesota Board Of Medical Practice

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Answer To Plaintiff David McKee’s Complaint

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Motion For Summary Judgment

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Deposition Extracts

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Circumstances Before Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Circumstances After Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony In Response To Questions By Marshall Tanick

Affidavits By Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Parents

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Supplemental Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Motion To Oppose Summary Judgment

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Reply Memo In Support Of Motion For Summary Judgment

Sixth Judicial District Court’s Order On Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Appeal Of Order On Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Minnesota Court Of Appeals Order To Strike Portion Of Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply Brief

Minnesota Court Of Appeals Announces Decision

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Petition For Review By Minnesota Supreme Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Opposition To Review By Minnesota Supreme Court

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Reply Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Minnesota Supreme Court Decision On David McKee MD V. Dennis K. Laurion

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2010

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2011

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2012

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2013

McKee V Laurion Is A Textbook Case