APRIL 28, 2011
“Judge Tosses Doctor’s Suit Against Patient’s Family”
Mark Stodghill, DULUTH NEWS TRIBUNE
A judge threw out a lawsuit filed by a Duluth physician who said he was defamed by a man who publicly criticized his bedside manner.
Dr. David McKee, a neurologist with Northland Neurology and Myology, alleged that Dennis Laurion of Duluth defamed him and interfered with his business by making false statements to the American Academy of Neurology, the American Neurological Association, two physicians in Duluth, the St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services Advisory Committee and St. Luke’s Hospital, among others.
Laurion was critical of the treatment his father, Kenneth, received from McKee after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke and spending four days at St. Luke’s Hospital from April 17-21 last year. Kenneth Laurion recovered from his condition.
Dennis Laurion claimed that any statements he made about the doctor were true and that he was immune from any liability to the plaintiff.
In his 18-page order dismissing the suit, Sixth Judicial District Judge Eric Hylden wrote that looking at Laurion’s “statements as a whole, the court does not find defamatory meaning, but rather a sometimes emotional discussion of the issues.”
Hylden addressed the fact that Laurion posted some of his criticisms of McKee on websites. “In modern society, there needs to be some give and take, some ability for parties to air their differences,” the judge wrote. “Today, those disagreements may take place on various Internet sources. Because the medium has changed, however, does not make statements of this sort any more or less defamatory.”
Hylden concluded his order by stating that there wasn’t enough objective information provided to justify asking a jury to decide the matter.
Laurion was relieved by the court’s ruling. “My parents, who are now 86, my wife, and I have found this process very stressful for the past year, since my father’s stroke. There was never just one defendant,” he said. “We’re grateful that Judge Hylden found no need for a trial.”
In his suit, McKee alleged that Laurion made false statements including that McKee “seemed upset” that Kenneth Laurion had been transferred from the Intensive Care Unit to a ward room; that McKee told the Laurion family that he had to “spend time finding out if [the patient] had been transferred or died;” that McKee told the Laurions that 44 percent of hemorrhagic stroke victims die within 30 days; that McKee told the patient that he didn’t need therapy; that McKee said it didn’t matter that the patient’s gown was hanging from his neck with his backside exposed; that McKee blamed the patient for the loss of his time; and that McKee didn’t treat his patient with dignity.