During David McKee MD V. Dennis K. Laurion, Sixth Judicial District Judge Eric Hylden had full transcripts of depositions placed into the case record. Below are excerpts of the Defendant’s deposition answers about Internet postings and correspondence.
TANICK: Well, the next thing, I take it, is you posted on somewhere.
LAURION: I posted on two of those Web sites.
TANICK: All right. And you thought you posted on four. Right?
TANICK: What accounts for that discrepancy?
LAURION: I don’t know, but when I went back to look a couple of days later, there was no remark on Doctor Scorecard, and when I wrote to ask the sites to delete them, Health Grades wrote back something to the effect that “You must be mistaken. We don’t accept narratives. All you could have done is filled out the number of stars.”
TANICK: All right. So you think your posting only appeared on Insider Pages and Vitals?
TANICK: Didn’t you have to enter the two other ones too? You thought you did at least?
LAURION: I thought I had, but apparently was mistaken.
TANICK: Well, if I understand you correctly, you’re telling us that this was posted on Insider Pages. Com, Doctors — www.Vitals.com, and you thought you posted it on the other two, but those apparently didn’t get on there, according to what you know?
LAURION: It was actually only posted on Insiders and –
TANICK: Okay, and I take it the reason you were drawn those two web sites is because – after Googling his name –
TANICK: – it came up that he was listed on those two. Right?
LAURION: He was listed on all four of them.
TANICK: On all four? Right. Was he listed on anything else?
LAURION: I think he was, but I didn’t go any farther than the first four.
LAURION: I looked at the sites to see if my comments were posted.
TANICK: And they were posted on two, but not the other two. Right?
TANICK: The letter goes on, then, to include the two enclosures, the first one is – the enclosure 1 is the Web site information that you posted on the two Web sites?
TANICK: When you did your posting on the three – or the two Web sites that you say you posted, Insider Pages and Vitals.com. Right?
TANICK: I think you told us what prompted you to put the postings on Vitals and InsiderPages, but what was your purpose in doing it?
LAURION: In doing what?
TANICK: In posting – in making those postings about your encounter with Dr. McKee. You told us, I think, that you said you saw he had a profile there and he was kind of mediocre, and that kind of prompted you to put something on there. But what was your purpose? What was your goal or objective?
LAURION: I think it was simply to state a case of bad behavior from that individual while sticking to not causing any conclusions. I didn’t make any reference to his skill as a doctor, but I –
TANICK: Well – go ahead.
LAURION: – felt the site exists for that purpose.
TANICK: For what purpose?
LAURION: If you see a doctor, you can go there and rate him. You can tell good things about him and you can tell bad things about him.
TANICK: And you told bad things?
LAURION: I told that one episode. I didn’t make any predictions or characterizations.
TANICK: Fair enough.
TANICK: And did you use any material – did you use any notes or source material or anything in connection with those various letters?
LAURION: No. I simply drafted it.
TANICK: And you sent it to St. Luke’s Hospital. Right?
LAURION: Because he has privileges from St. Luke’s, and at that point, I thought that somebody with an M.D. after his name would call him in and say, “We don’t like getting complaints like this. Could you be a little friendlier in the future, and we’ll consider this over.”
TANICK: So the reason you wrote to St. Luke’s – you wanted somebody in authority there to admonish Dr. McKee. Right?
LAURION: I wanted somebody to tell him that they either felt that that was poor behavior or that the writer thought that was poor behavior, and we don’t like getting letters like this.
TANICK: Did you have any communications back from St. Luke’s?
TANICK: Was that Dr. Gary Peterson?
TANICK: He was the medical director there. Right?
LAURION: I’m not sure what his title is, but he’s the senior medical officer, by whatever name.
TANICK: And what – what did he tell you?
LAURION: Initially I got a letter from him that said that Dr. McKee is not their employee and that therefore his recourse was limited to giving a copy of my complaint to Dr. McKee, and that he had done so.
TANICK: You also wrote to the Minnesota Medical Association?
TANICK: And what was your purpose in doing that?
LAURION: My purpose was the same as my purpose in all of the others. They were either regulatory bodies or they were peer-review bodies, and my ultimate goal was that somebody would say, “You should be careful how you address your patients so that we don’t get these complaint letters.
TANICK: On page 3, you state at the end of the first paragraph you had no intention of doing anything more about it, posting any more information about Dr. McKee or corresponding with anybody about Dr. McKee. Right? That’s what you said in your letter?
LAURION: I said that with the preface “otherwise.”
TANICK: “Otherwise.” So what did you mean, “otherwise?”
LAURION: I meant that if there’s no further need to post about him, that I won’t. If I’m left alone, I’m fine
TANICK: All right. And you conclude by saying, “I am no longer inclined to discuss Dr. McKee’s behavior with anybody.” And the next paragraph is “I’ll consider this matter finished. Right? And “Will Doctor McKee” question mark. Right?
LAURION: Yes, and I was taking your threat letter at face value, that if I complied with what you wanted, that would be the end of the issue.
TANICK: However, you decided not to do that. Right?
LAURION: No, I don’t agree with that.
TANICK: All right. So the letter prompted you to do something?
TANICK: And what is it, it prompted you to do?
LAURION: You told me not to talk to anybody else and to delete the postings. I deleted the postings and stopped talking to anybody else.
TANICK: Did you do anything else relative to that?
LAURION: Ask me something specific, so I can answer it one way or the other.
TANICK: Did you do anything relative to the Dr. McKee situation other than try to delete postings?
LAURION: I successfully deleted the postings, those sites I wrote to and asked them to delete them and they deleted them. The sites that hadn’t posted them wrote and told me that they hadn’t posted them. I just did not delete them manually.
TANICK: Did you have any communication at any time, Mr. Laurion, with any members of the media respecting or regarding Dr. McKee and the situation with he (sic) and your father?
LAURION: Not by name. I wrote to – only after I got your threat letter, I wrote to Mark Stodghill and to two television stations. I said, “I have been threatened by a lawsuit by a doctor. If he follows through, is it newsworthy?” Nowhere in these contacts did I say his name or even my father’s name or St. Luke’s Hospital as a track back.
TANICK: Mr. Laurion, I have before you Exhibit 11, and that’s a collection of communications that you made to members of the media, right, concerning the situation with Dr. McKee. Right?
LAURION: It was concerning the fact that a doctor was suing me, and I asked if that was newsworthy.
TANICK: Exhibit 12 is a document that you sent to Improve Vitals and to Legal – or to Insider Pages and also to City Search – well, no. City – that’s their response. These are – Exhibit 12 is correspondence that you sent to Improve Vitals and Insider Pages asking to delete the postings you had made. Right?
TANICK: And that was a response to my letter to you on May 7th. Right?
TANICK: Okay, why did you – I think you indicated that the reason you sent these letters to these people was to see if my communications to you on behalf of Dr. McKee was (sic) somehow newsworthy. Right?
LAURION: Oh, no. No.
TANICK: All right. Well you tell me why you sent those letters.
LAURION: I sent them to ask if a resulting lawsuit would be noteworthy. I didn’t ask them anything about your letter, nor did I want them to do a piece about my father’s treatment. I was not contacting any of those sources and saying “A doctor was rude to my father. Would you run with it?” because, obviously, that wouldn’t be newsworthy. I asked “If I’m sued, will it be newsworthy?”
TANICK: Why were you asking if this was newsworthy? What was your purpose?
LAURION: From what I’ve read on the Internet, this is a precedent type of situation. If you Google doctors who are suing their patients, you will find only six or seven names.
MCKEE: I’m not suing a patient.
TANICK: Go ahead.
LAURION: And there are several – this apparently is a hot topic. Not only doctors suing families, but anybody suing somebody for Internet defamation. I think even your own website describes Internet defamation as a brand new field, a brand new area of experience. There’s a lot of conversation about it. There are a lot of sites written by doctors for doctors, some of them internists, some of them dentists, and so forth, and inevitably on all of them there’s a question of “How do I respond when somebody complains about me on the Internet?” And the advice generally given is either ask them to retract it, which they probably won’t do, or ignore it, it will make the Web site go higher, and if you sue anybody, it will garner publicity. Also, I never cared about Internet defamation before, but I’ve been converted and I’ve read sites about Internet defamation, and they generally all say if somebody sues you for defamation, you should shine a spotlight on it; and therefore, I felt that if he sues me, he should have the courage of his convictions and let the entire community know it. The article says he rebuts all of those statements. So fine, he got to say he rebutted them. I got to say that I affirmed them. It’s a public debate.
TANICK: All right. And on May 11th, you were contacting media to see if there was some interest on their part in writing an article if you were sued. Right?
LAURION: But I was not writing about Dr. McKee. I was writing and saying I might be sued by a doctor and is that newsworthy.
LAURION: I purposely redacted everything from my complaint letter that would even lead them to what hospital. Had he not sued me, and they contacted me again and said what’s happening, I would have said nothing, and I would have never revealed his name.