Physicians Practice: Suing for Defamation Over a Negative Online Review

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March 27, 2015 

“Suing for Defamation Over a Negative Online Review” 

Sara Kropf, Physicians Practice

 In 2010, Dennis Laurion brought his father to [ St. Luke’s Hospital, ] a Minnesota hospital following a stroke. He found the bedside manner of the treating neurologist, David McKee, rude. After his father was discharged, Laurion posted several negative online comments about his interaction with McKee. In response to the posts, McKee took an unusual step. He sued Laurion for defamation. After four years of litigation, however, the doctor’s lawsuit was dismissed. He had lost.

There are dozens of websites where people like Laurion can post online reviews of doctors. Search for “review doctors,” and you will find sites such as Health Grades, Zoc Doc, and Rate MDs. On Rate MDs, for example, doctors are rated on staff, punctuality, helpfulness, and knowledge. Each of the websites allows users to post open-ended comments about the doctor as well. These online comments can pose a serious danger to a doctor’s reputation.

If you think prospective patients are not relying on online review sites, think again. According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 59 percent of individuals seeking a physician for themselves found online reviews of doctors to be “somewhat” or “very” important when choosing a doctor. There can be little doubt that online reviews affect your practice, both positively and negatively.

 Review Recourse

 These review websites can provide a trove of helpful information to potential patients. But what if the reviews are false? What if a patient posts misleading statements about your practice or your medical skills? What if negative reviews lead to a decline in new patients or loss of current patients from your practice? What can you do?

One option is to sue for defamation, just as McKee did. Before you take this step, however, you should understand the benefits and risks of doing so. This post is the first in a series exploring how physicians can respond to negative online reviews. We will examine what steps can be taken before suing for defamation, the risks involved in suing a patient for defamation and some of the barriers to winning a defamation case, including the challenges of proving damages.

For now, let’s start with the basics. What is defamation? Defamation is a broad term that includes both slander (when the defamatory words are spoken) and libel (when the defamatory words are written). So, if your patient smears your reputation during a community meeting, you may have a slander claim. If he does so in a post on RateMDs, then you may have a libel claim. They both fall under the legal cause of action for “defamation.” 

Winning a Defamation Case: 6 Key Elements

 To win a defamation case, you must prove six things:

# 1 There is a “published” statement. This means only that the “speaker” (who will be the defendant) made the statement to at least one other person. It is a very low barrier and easy to prove.

# 2 The defamatory statement is about you. This is usually not an issue because the speaker will identify the doctor by name. As long as a reader could identify the doctor by the words used in the statement (for example: the “senior doctor in the dermatology practice in the Harris Building in Topeka”), then you have proven this element.

# 3 The statement is false. A true statement is never defamatory.

# 4 The statement is a statement of fact, not opinion. This element is usually the hardest one to prove. The First Amendment protects patients who are only expressing their opinions or merely insulting someone. So, it is not defamation if someone posts that you have a “rude bedside manner” or possess “terrible surgical skills” or are an “idiot.”

# 5 The speaker was either negligent in making the statement or acted with malice, depending on the type of case. “Malice” in this context means that speaker knew the statement was false or recklessly disregarded the truth of the statement. For example, if a speaker wrote that “Dr. John Doe does not have a medical license,” after visiting the doctor’s office and seeing the framed license on the wall, this would satisfy the malice standard.

# 6 You suffered some provable damages. The harm must have been caused by the defamation and not any other reason. This can be difficult to prove in the online review context.

Each part of a defamation claim can present an independent obstacle to success in court. In the next post, we will explore the steps you can take to remove a negative review from a website, either through obtaining a court order in a defamation lawsuit or by contacting the website and patient directly. 

Sara Kropf has been a trial lawyer for over 15 years and handles both civil litigation and white-collar criminal defense. She was a partner at a large, international firm before founding Law Office of Sara Kropf in 2013. She is licensed in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, and has handled cases across the country. Sara was lead counsel in a landmark defamation case involving defamatory reviews on Yelp.. Email sara@kropf-law.com.

Source

As Posted At Diagnostic Imaging

As Posted At Online Reputation Management For Doctors

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

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Plastic Surgeon Sues Patient for Posting Negative Review

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May 29, 2012

“Plastic Surgeon Sues Patient for Posting Negative Review”

 John Washam, Talk To The Manager Blog

Restaurants and hotels aren’t the only categories of service business that are vulnerable to online reviews.  Healthcare providers also are wary of reviews appearing on medical review sites such as Vitals, Rate MDs, and Rate Your Doctor.

Dr. Armando Soto is claiming defamation against a patient who posted a negative review on Rate MDs.

Domingo Rivera, attorney for Dr. Soto, said the patient’s comments on Rate MDs aren’t opinions protected by the First Amendment but a “malicious campaign of unlawfully defaming and spreading lies” about his client and business.

The counsel for the unnamed patient warned the suit could have a chilling effect on users of sites such as Angie’s List, Yelp, Rate Your Doctor, and others that rate professionals and services.  “The terror created by this lawsuit will squelch freedom of speech,” said David Muraskin, a Public Citizen attorney representing the defendant.

In 2011, the anonymous online comments about breast-augmentation surgeries claimed that the doctor had botched the work, saying there was unevenness, extra scarring and other issues. The doctor’s lawyers claim those statements are defamatory because they aren’t true, while other comments about the “end result is horrible” is an opinion.

David Muraskin of the Public Citizen Litigation Group said, “If a patient is unhappy, they can use constructive criticism, or return to the surgeon to fix it.”

Rivera said. “This person has a vendetta, and my client has to use the court system to remedy that.”

The Henrico County Circuit Court granted Soto a subpoena in April to force Comcast to divulge the Internet IP address, identity, mailing and billing addresses of the person who posted the comment.

Rivera said he most likely will drop that subpoena because he has independently learned that patient is an Osceola County schoolteacher. He suspects she has posted multiple comments on the website, posing as another unhappy patient. He did not identify the patient and has not transferred the lawsuit to Florida yet.

“It is almost a certainty that we will file there,” he said. “This person will be dealt with.”

Rivera said Soto wants the posts removed and is seeking $49,000 in damages.

Comments:

 Dr. Armando Soto: Free Speech is Great; Defamation is Illegal; but Patient Satisfaction is King.

Here are the facts of this situation.

Some time ago, we became aware of a collection of internet posts that bore no resemblance to truthful patient experiences in our practice. There have also been, over the years, a small number of other negative opinions expressed, with which we were not as concerned, understanding that we can never make everybody happy, and that the people involved were not going to be possible for us to please, no matter how hard we tried.

However, because this particular collection of posts included multiple untruthful representations of fact, because they include duplication of complaints with subtle differences and different usernames to make it look as though written by multiple people (when in reality a single person was responsible), and because some included no truth at all (again, in statements represented as fact), we felt it important to pursue the matter.

Why?  Well, first of all, because as a professional who takes his relationships with his patients and their complete satisfaction as seriously as I do, it was important to me that I do everything possible to understand (for the benefit of this individual as well as my practice) why this person had not expressed any legitimate complaints to me directly and allowed us to guide her through a thoughtful and appropriate course of action prior to posting untruthful and damaging things about me on the web. The vast majority of my patients would attest, I believe, to the extreme dedication to patient satisfaction we practice in my office every day- and I believe it is evident to them that we often do so even when not in our financial best interests. In other words, we believe in doing the right thing- and did not understand why someone would do this.

Secondly, there is no one alive today that is more thankful for the opportunities, freedoms, and rights that we as Americans enjoy than me. I am a living example of The American Dream. I simply would not have been able to achieve everything I have in any other nation on Earth, and I am deeply grateful for that. For the legal eagles at Public Citizen to say that I am trying to “squelch free speech” is ignorant, offensive, and more importantly, untrue.

I believe all of our constitutional rights- including the right to free speech are valuable and ought to be protected- but as an American who HAS worked so hard to accomplish everything I have, I also believe (just as strongly) that we have a right to protect our good names from libel and slander. These rights are no less important.

I believe the zealous, if misguided people at Public Citizen have an ax to grind on this issue of internet free speech, and would like to use me as their stone… but this is simply not my issue. I have no problem with free expression of opinion. Just libel and slander. Thank God that in America, we recognize a difference.

The reason all of the people who complained on the web about me were named in the suit is because it was necessary to do so in order to identify this one person. It is also required that damages requested be stipulated- but our goal was never to attempt to recover money. Our goal was to identify the person involved, come to an understanding of the causes of her behavior, and bring light to the truth, while hopefully recovering a more healthy doctor-patient relationship and achieving her satisfaction.

Experience has shown that the most vocal and happy clients/patients of any business are those who may have been initially displeased and were then won over by the establishment’s skills at recovering their satisfaction and trust. It has been our goal to have this opportunity with this person, and I am pleased to say we are on our way to achieving this end.

I have no problem with the occasional patient expressing a negative opinion of me. The fact is that even a cursory review of my education, training, experience, work product, and the vast majority of prior patient experiences would reveal a level of success and accomplishment with which I believe I can be rightfully proud, and which belies the idea being pushed by the brilliant minds at Public Citizen- that I am a poorly qualified surgeon who is trying to keep the word of my incompetence from getting out somehow by suing all critics into submission.

The truth is that the lawsuit we filed had a very limited purpose- to identify the person responsible for this one particular collection of fraudulent and defamatory (because they included multiple representations of fact that could be objectively proven to be false) posts. The suit served that purpose. The patient in question, in fact, has at this point admitted to everything I describe above, and we are actively discussing a solution acceptable to all, with restoration of a healthier relationship. Which is really what good health care is all about.

To summarize, I have no problem with the reality that there are always going to be some who have a negative opinion of me as a professional, despite my best efforts. But I believe I have a right to protect my reputation when behavior crosses the line towards libel and slander. In this particular case, thankfully, the patient has admitted her wrongdoing, agreed to resolve the issues with me, and even asked that I take her back as a patient- such is her true assessment of me.

This is- for the patient, and for me, a very successful outcome.

John Washam:  I see that this has been a difficult experience for you and I’m glad that you’ve reached a resolution. So many businesses are vulnerable to online reviews and in most cases the reviewer is not held accountable. Free speech does not imply “freedom from responsibility”.  Speech can impact good people who are doing their best to run a business and provide valuable services to the community.

Source

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Florida Doctor Sues Patient For Posting Bad Review Online

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May 24, 2012

“Florida Doctor Sues Patient For Posting Bad Review Online”

Fox News, Orlando

 ORLANDO, Fla. –  A Florida plastic surgeon has filed a lawsuit against one of his patients for posting an unfavorable review of him online.

Dr. Armando Soto told My Fox Orlando he filed the suit to protect his reputation and his business. The unnamed patient allegedly trashed his services online at the website Rate MDs, posting complaints about a breast surgery.

Attorney Larry Walters tells My Fox Orlando although the patient may be covered by free speech laws, this protection will only apply if the criticism is valid. “You cannot cross the line and make false statement of fact about a person that causes damages to that person,” he said.

Dr. Soto tells My Fox Orlando he has been in contact with the patient he filed the suit against, and they are trying to work it out. He said he believes his suit against the patient could soon be dropped.

Source 

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Two Interesting Internet Defamation Cases Filed By Doctors

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August 27, 2012

“Two Interesting Internet Defamation Cases Filed By Doctors”

Maura Larkins, San Diego Education Report Blog

#1 – Patient Susan Walker was able to get Dr. Aaron Filler’s defamation lawsuit thrown out of court.

#2–Dennis Laurion is still fighting this defamation case by Dr. David C. McKee: “When a doctor hires a private detective to find out which one of the 4,400 nurses in St. Louis County, MN may have called him a “tool” you know the man is serious about defending his reputation. That is just what Dr. David McKee of Northland Neurology and Myology is doing in preparation for the next leg of his defamation lawsuit against the son of a former patient, Dennis Laurion…”

The irony of all this is that, perhaps, it is more likely that positive reviews are false than negative reviews.

A New York Times article by David Streitfeld, August 25, 2012, tells about how reviews are bought and sold:

“The wheels of online commerce run on positive reviews,” said Bing Liu, a data-mining expert at the University of Illinois, Chicago, whose 2008 research showed that 60 percent of the millions of product reviews on Amazon are five stars and an additional 20 percent are four stars. “But almost no one wants to write five-star reviews, so many of them have to be created.”

Consumer reviews are powerful because, unlike old-style advertising and marketing, they offer the illusion of truth. They purport to be testimonials of real people, even though some are bought and sold just like everything else on the commercial Internet.

The Federal Trade Commission has issued guidelines stating that all online endorsements need to make clear when there is a financial relationship, but enforcement has been minimal and there has been a lot of confusion in the blogosphere over how this affects traditional book reviews…

Aaron Filler MD V Susan Walker

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

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California Patient Wins Anti-SLAPP Motion Against Doctor She Criticized

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August 1, 2012

“California Patient Wins Anti-SLAPP Motion Against Doctor She Criticized”
Maura Larkins, Thank Heaven For Insurance Companies

Party Issuing Legal Threat: Dr. Aaron Filler; Aaron Filler, MD, PHD, APC; Imagebased Surgicenter Corporation; Neurograph Institute Medical Associates

Party Receiving Legal Threat: Susan Walker; Does 1-25

Dr. Aaron Filler filed a complaint against former patient Susan Walker in Los Angeles Superior Court on May 31, 2011. In his complaint, Filler alleged defamation and interference with prospective economic advantage in response to Walker’s review of Dr. Filler on a physician rating site.

On August 24, 2011, Walker filed a motion to strike based on California Code of Civil Procedure §§ 425.16 and 45, California’s anti-SLAPP statute. Walker’s motion argues that Walker is shielded from liability as the “dissemination of consumer information about medical care is a vital ‘public issue’ and the internet is a ‘public forum’,” and that Dr. Filler is a public figure subject to the burden of proving actual malice. Dr. Filler filed an opposition to this motion on September 16, 2011, also requesting leave to amend the complaint to plead more specific factual allegations to establish actual malice. Walker replied to Filler’s opposition  on September 22, 2011.

After a hearing on April 19, 2011, Walker’s motion to strike was granted.  In the order filed on May 8, 2012, Judge Elizabeth White held that Filler’s claims arose from Walker’s act of free speech in connection with a public issue under CCP § 425.16 and that Filler did not establish a probability of prevailing on these claims. In accordance with this order, Judge White later ordered Filler to pay  $50,259.65 to Walker for attorneys’ fees and costs.

Source

Citizen Media Law Project – Filler V. Walker

Protect Your Practice Carefully Against Negative Online Reviews

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February 18, 2013

“Protect Your Practice Carefully Against Negative Online Reviews”

Fox Rothschild LLP Website

 A recent court decision to throw out a doctor’s well-publicized defamation case raises the question: What’s the best way to deal with negative online comments about your practice?

Neurologist Dr. David McKee pursued the defamation suit against the author of some negative online reviews for more than two years before the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed a lower court opinion and threw his suit out. According to court papers the defendant objected to McKee’s behavior while treating his father and criticized him on various websites.

Studies of online review sites in general show these reviews to be influential on consumer behavior.

Attorneys recommend to take several steps short of legal action in order to protect yourself against negative reviews such as the those experienced by Dr. McKee.

Some attorneys suggest reaching out to the critic however attorney William Maruca advises that trying to answer a critic with your side of the story can be dangerous – particularly if you do it in the forum where the criticism appears.

“The danger is escalating a bad situation into one that could attract more attention,” says Maruca. “One unhappy review in a long list of favorable reviews is more likely to be overlooked or discounted than if there is a lengthy flame war on your review page.”

In addition attorneys suggest using low-impact legal tactics such as a cease-and-desist order from an attorney. It also may be valuable to try using positive news to combat the bad. If you promulgate your positives with an eye toward search engine optimization you may find that the good outweighs the bad.

Source

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

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Protecting Against Negative Online Reviews

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October 16, 2013

“Protecting Against Negative Online Reviews”

Just ClicIt LLC, Medical Practice Reputation Marketing

 A recent court decision to [ dismiss ] a physician’s well publicized defamation case produces a concern: What is the best choice in dealing with negative online comments about your practice?  Legal action against consumers who criticize your practice online can be costly, prolonged and unsuccessful, as in the case of neurologist, Dr. David McKee of Duluth, Minnesota.

McKee pursued this previously mentioned defamation suit against a person who wrote some negative online reviews for more than three years before the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed a lower court opinion and [ dismissed ] his case on Jan. 30, 2013.

Per court documents, defendant Dennis Laurion objected to McKee’s behavior while treating his dad and criticized him on various “rate-your-doctor websites.”Laurion stated in his reviews a nurse’s alleged observation that McKee was “a real tool” – one of six statements that a court of appeals judged had merit for a lawsuit.

In reversing, the Supreme Court decided some of Laurion’s statements were essentially true and others innocuous, or in the case of the “real tool” statement, a matter of opinion that “cannot be proven true or false.”

An analysis on online review sites in general show these reviews to be influential on consumer behavior.  Just a 1-star increase on Yelp brings a 5% to 9% increase in revenue, according to Harvard Business Review. Studies on physician review sites such as Vitals.com are less decisive, but common sense does suggest that bad reviews are not good, especially when patients look for a new doctor.  “Sometimes the cranks get ignored,” says an attorney from Indianapolis. “If the complaint is ‘I had to wait an hour,’ that’s probably not a big deal, but when they get patients to question your quality of care, that’s another story.”

As Online Reputation Marketing specialists have stated, “When you have only so much real estate on Google, then who do you want to own it: You, unhappy patients or competitors?”  Experts tell us that medical practices can take a few steps short of legal action to protect themselves against negative reviews.

Contact critics, but do it offline

 Trying to respond to a critic with your side of what happened can be dangerous, particularly if you do it in the forum where the criticism appears, says a health care attorney with Fox Rothschild in Pittsburgh.  There is danger in elevating a bad situation into one that could bring even more attention. One unhappy review amongst many favorable reviews is likely to be neglected or diminished, than if there is a lengthy social spat on your review page.

A principal from a law office in Royal Oak, Michigan, who specializes in social media issues, suggests you contact the critics away from the review site, either by using their posted address or by tracking them down on Google.  However, the outreach may backfire. They might go back to the message board and say, ‘I heard from the doctor, and he’s really feeling the heat.  A better way to respond is, ‘We understand you’re upset; what can we do to help?’  If a consumer feels resentful, disgraced or that they’ve been treated poorly, just a modest show of respect can actually be very healing and productive.

Next, Use low-impact legal tactics

 If a critic is overly obnoxious, or if you suspect that he may be employed by a competitor and is committing willful sabotage, consider getting him, or the site that displays his reviews, to remove them with a relatively low-impact legal tactic: a cease-and-desist order from an attorney.  The attorney from Indianapolis advises that this usually presents a simple complaint, such as the reviews violating the website’s terms of service in some way.  If the reviewer is defaming you, “a strongly worded letter from an attorney advising him about defamation liability and demanding a retraction” may stop him.

Positive Inputs to Fight the Bad Reviews

Online Reputation Marketing Service companies often advise that you fight the bad reviews with good ones.  If you disseminate your positives with an eye toward search engine optimization (SEO) and reputation marketing strategies, you may find that your good-news posts exceed any bad reviews.  One such firm battled a physician’s critic by publishing on the internet a professional biography and personal website for the doctor that accurately brought to light his numerous awards and accolades, his volunteer service, and other notable endeavors.  This type of truthful and current content quickly pushed the negative reviews to the bottom of his second page of search results.

It is advised that physicians appropriately and proactively contact patients and ask for accurate feedback on pertinent review sites. To get reviews from patients, an Online Reputation Marketing Service company can provide you with strategies, such as setting up practices with a tablet so that patients have the ability to give a review in their office.  If the reviews are not all good, it’s still a positive for the practice, because the higher the quantity of reviews and how current they are is what makes you rise to the top.   Asking for opportune reviews is key and would not include getting your staff to postreview sites with good information.  “FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has some clear rules on disclosure,” warns the attorney from Indianapolis. “Their guidance says someone reviewing a product should disclose if they’ve received remuneration or have an interest – for example, if they’re employed by the company they are reviewing. Don’t offer gifts, discounts, or premiums to patients for giving reviews, because a patient could be offended by such an offer, and they will post it and destroy your credibility and the credibility of any unprompted favorable reviews. Also, it may get close to violating the civil monetary penalty law’s prohibitions against patient inducements.”

 As a Last Resort, There is Always Legal Action

 When all else fails, legal action may be your last resort, though you can’t be sure of a positive result. Opinions are one thing, but “if they disparage your professional capabilities falsely, it can be easier to prosecute,” says the attorney from Michigan. “‘Tool’ is ambiguous, but ‘Doctor Smith botched my surgery’ isn’t, and if you can show it’s not true, you may have something.”

Image-ToolsThis is not a drill. This is not a drill. This is not a drill.

 The best method, of course, is not to get to this point in the first place. “I think this underscores the need for good, old-fashioned customer service. Make sure patients are well-served. Things do happen, and sometimes someone is going to be unhappy, or you’ll get a malcontent.… If there’s a complaint, don’t blow it off. Remember that doctors are in a service business too.”

Because your reputation is everything online, medical practices need to implement reputation marketing first, before any other marketing.  Consider hiring an Online  Marketing Service company that specializes in Reputation Marketing so they can spend the time you don’t have on building a 5 star reputation online and leveraging that reputation to get more patients.

Source

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

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