MAY 14, 2011
“Minnesota Judge Dismisses Online Defamation Lawsuit; World War II Vet Emerges Victorious”
KELLY WARNER LAW FIRM
“In modern society, there needs to be some give and take, some ability for parties to air their differences,” began Minnesota Sixth Judicial Judge, Eric Hylden. “Today, those disagreements may take place on various Internet sources. Because the medium has changed, however, does not make statements of this kind any more or less defamatory,” he concluded. Hylden’s recent judgment is one in a long line of online defamation lawsuit decisions to air on the side of free speech.
The Online Defamation Lawsuit Background
Several months ago, McKee vs. Laurion landed in Judge Hylden’s rotation. Dr. McKee, the plaintiff, filed civil charges against Dennis Laurion, the defendant, after several unflattering missives about the doctor appeared online.
Laurion’s father, Kenneth, a World War II veteran, had been treated by McKee after a hemorrhagic stroke. Suffice it to say, Dennis was not impressed with the neurologist’s medical prowess or bedside manner. Disturbed, Laurion took to the Internet and wasn’t shy about sharing his opinions.
McKee Files Online Defamation Lawsuit
Feeling stunted, McKee decided to fight back via the courts. That’s why, last June, with the help of attorney Marshall Tanick, McKee filed an online defamation lawsuit claim in Duluth. He accused the younger Laurion of publishing spurious claims which negatively affected his (McKee’s) professional status.
Attorneys across the country enthusiastically followed the online defamation lawsuit; after all, it had the potential to establish online defamation legal precedence.
In February, at the summary judgment hearing, Judge Hylden openly questioned whether or not online commentary limits needed to be legally established.
Online Defamation Lawsuit Decision
After considering both arguments and mulling over the issue for several weeks, the Minnesota Judge stuck with current legal convention and dismissed the online defamation lawsuit case. In the end, Hylden decided there simply wasn’t enough objective material for a jury to consider.
Online defamation lawsuits are as American as apple pie. In a country where reputation capital is fiercely guarded, slander and libel are taken very seriously. But the First Amendment is also a point of national pride, and defamation claims are easily argued away using free speech platitudes.
Undoubtedly dejected after hearing about the dismissal, Dr. McKee spat out a few choice words; “Dennis Laurion,” crowed McKee, “is a liar and a bully and a coward.” (Clearly, McKee could have also used the help of a public relations representative.)
Better luck next time, Doc.
Reprinted October 28th, 2011, Last updated May 10th, 2014, by Kelly Warner Law