January 30, 2013
“Minnesota High Court Says Online Post Legally Protected”
CBS Latest News
MINNEAPOLIS (AP): The Minnesota Supreme Court says a man’s online post calling a doctor “a real tool” is protected speech. The high court on Wednesday dismissed a case by Duluth neurologist David McKee, who took offense when a patient’s son posted critical remarks about him on some rate-your-doctor websites. Those included a claim that a nurse called the doctor “a real tool.”
The justices say the comments posted by Dennis Laurion don’t add up to defamation. They say referring to someone as “a real tool” is a protected statement of opinion that can’t be the basis of a defamation claim. They also say it doesn’t matter whether the unnamed nurse actually exists.
The decision reverses a Minnesota Court of Appeals decision that would have let the doctor’s lawsuit proceed to trial. **
A Grown-Up: Hey Doc, perhaps you want to give yourself a prescription for a pair of testicles. It may help with that crybaby problem of yours.
Just Sayin: God, no kidding. But ol’ David McKee had to push his luck in cyberworld, a place he has no REAL understanding of. Well guess what ol’ Davie – you just made yourself the tool fool and everybody will now say “wow, ain’t that the doctor without any nads? Hmmm – neurology or no neurology, a man should at least have nads. Next…”
Spence: Maybe with online ratings, doctors may have to actually show some compassion towards their patients. I realize this does not apply to all but there are plenty of doctors that could prescribe themselves some bedside manners.
Chris Mankey: That doctor is a real tool.
Dennis: This entire experience has been distressing to my family. We were initially shocked and blindsided by “jocular” comments made so soon after my father’s stroke by somebody who didn’t know us. We were overwhelmed by my being sued after posting a consumer opinion, and we were shocked by the rapidity with which it happened.
It has been the 800 pound gorilla in the room. My parents will be 88-year-old witnesses. My mother and wife prefer no discussion, because they don’t want to think about it. Conversation with my father only reminds him of his anger over this situation. My siblings and children don’t bring it up, because they don’t know how to say anything helpful.
I have been demoralized by four calendar years of being called “Defendant Laurion” in public documents. 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 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.
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.
What it’s like for a patient or family member to be caught up in a case like this was already described in a Star Tribune newspaper article, “Company sues over info put on Yahoo message board,” August 27, 2001. It said in part: “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.
After receipt of a threat letter, I deleted my rate-your-doctor site postings and sent confirmation emails to opposing counsel. Since May of 2010, postings on the Internet by others include newspaper accounts of the lawsuit; readers’ remarks about the newspaper accounts; and blog opinion pieces written by doctors, lawyers, public relations professionals, patient advocates, and information technology experts. Dozens of websites by doctors, lawyers, patient advocates, medical students, law schools, consumer advocates, and free speech monitors posted opinions that a doctor or plumber shouldn’t sue the family of a customer for a bad rating. These authors never said they saw my deleted ratings – only the news coverage. Newspaper stories have caused people to call me to relate
their own medical experiences. I’ve referred them to my lawyers.