Roanoke County News: “When Online Reviews Lead To Lawsuits”

March 26, 2013

Reprinted February 2, 2016

Guest Opinion: “When Online Reviews Lead To Lawsuits”

Ken Paulson, Guest Opinion

Roanoke County News

Dennis Laurion posted caustic reviews of Minnesota neurologist David McKee, saying he was insensitive to his father’s needs and claiming that a nurse called the doctor “a real tool.” This angered McKee, who offered his own prescription: a libel suit.

The Minnesota Supreme Court found that the critical comments were protected under the First Amendment as free speech because they were just an opinion — “mere vituperation” — and dismissed the case.

Libel cases over online comments are on the rise, perhaps inevitably in an era of impulsive tweets and anonymous comments. Nevertheless, what could be a more fundamental exercise of free speech than telling others about your negative experiences with doctors, lawyers, contractors, and hotels?

Unfortunately, not all complainers can be counted on to give an accurate and fair account, and a business can be damaged irreparably by false allegations.

Courts have largely found that comments that are strictly opinion or hyperbole are protected by the First Amendment, while unsupported statements of fact can lead to liability. That probably means you can post a comment calling your lawyer a “clown” or “buffoon.” On the other hand, suggestions that your counsel is unlicensed, negligent, or careless are assertions of fact and not mere insults and could land you in a courtroom.

Ironically, the federal law that protects review sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List, and RateMD.com can also lead to reckless claims online. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects websites from libel claims as long as they simply permit the posting of content and don’t actively control posts. If a website edits posts, weeding out vitriolic or unfounded attacks, its potential liability can be more, not less.

There’s no question that the websites rating professionals and public accommodations are a real plus for consumers. A few minutes online can help ensure that you make the right choices in terms of your health care, legal advice, as well as vacation accommodations.

Even so, the hands-off administration of these sites can undercut their overall credibility.

Ken Paulson is president and chief executive officer of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University and in Washington, D.C. Previously, Paulson served as the editor and senior vice president/news of USA Today.

Full Article

Reprinted FEB 2, 2016

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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