Zaetsch Blogspot: Minnesota Case On Freedom Of Speech On The Web

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JANUARY 31, 2013

“Latest Minnesota Case On Freedom Of Speech On The Web.”

Zaetsch Blogspot

Abby Simons, reports for the Minneapolis Star Tribune of the recent unanimous opinion by the Minnesota Supreme Court, authored by Justice Page, which reversed a Court of Appeals decision about online publishing and defamation.

This is the opening part of the complete item Simons authored:

Finding no harm done, justices toss out lawsuit by Duluth physician.

Dennis Laurion fired off his screed on a few rate-your-doctor websites in April 2010, along with some letters about what he saw as poor bedside manner by his father’s neurologist. He expected at most what he calls a “non-apology apology.”

“I really thought I’d receive something within a few days along the lines of ‘I’m sorry you thought I was rude, that was not my intent’ and that would be the end of it,” the 66-year-old Duluth retiree said. “I certainly did not expect to be sued.”

He was. Dr. David McKee’s defamation lawsuit was the beginning of a four-year legal battle that ended Wednesday when the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled the doctor had no legal claim against Laurion because there was no proof that his comments were false or were capable of harming the doctor’s reputation.

The unanimous ruling reverses an earlier Appeals Court decision and brings to an end the closely watched case that brought to the forefront a First Amendment debate over the limits of free speech online.

It’s a frustrating end for McKee, 51, who said he’s spent at least $50,000 in legal fees and another $11,000 to clear his name online after the story went viral, resulting in hundreds more negative postings about him — likely from people who never met him. He hasn’t ruled out a second lawsuit stemming from those posts.

“The financial costs are significant, but money is money and five years from now I won’t notice the money I spent on this,” he said. “It’s been the harm to my reputation through the repeated publicity and the stress.”

He said he offered to settle the case at no cost after the Supreme Court hearing. Laurion contends they couldn’t agree on the terms of the settlement, and said he not only deleted his initial postings after he was initially served, but had nothing to do with subsequent online statements about McKee.

That opening explanation gives enough detail to allow Crabgrass readers to read the remainder of the complete report by Simons, which is recommended, or to read and understand the two conflicting court opinions, the unpublished Court of Appeals opinion, and the very recent reversal by the Minnesota Supreme Court. This is one of those most helpful situations, where the two opinions conflict so that each side of the argument is represented in a “winning” posture, while readers can discern what factors were influential with the lower appellate court, vice what was determinative to the ultimate decision on review.

Such situations are most instructive and helpful to those publishing online – where there are disagreeing viewpoints of what the law should be, and with one view dominating by virtue of being from the higher court.

That question is complicated by the always present fact that any deep pocket feeling aggrieved (or simply honked off like a spoiled brat) and able to pay the lawyer and the filing fee can cause grief to another, even when nothing but pure truth and reasonable conclusionary opinion is at issue.

Image-Lawyer-Counsels-Doctor

Practically, anyone publishing on the web should look at this MD, deep pocket, having dragged the citizen over the rocks in this affair, because he could afford to and wanted to.

One year elapsed between the Court of Appeals issuing an unpublished opinion, and the reversal. Guess at the cost to the party that lost in the lower appellate court, the target of the suit by the target of published criticism.

This is a telling paragraph of Simons’ report:

It’s a frustrating end for McKee, 51, who said he’s spent at least $50,000 in legal fees and another $11,000 to clear his name online after the story went viral, resulting in hundreds more negative postings about him — likely from people who never met him. He hasn’t ruled out a second lawsuit stemming from those posts.

If you are going to be an ass and sue over being publicly criticized, you have to take the ultimate yin with the yang. While that will not stop some having a more obstreperous nature (and having enough discretionary cash for the lawyer and filing fees without having to resort to eating cat food and living in a cold house); others, hopefully, will be deterred.

When you read what the doctor says he paid in fees, to put it in context, consider that you likely could buy an election or two, for less.

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

McKee V Laurion Is A Textbook Case

 

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