Reporting On Health: “Patient Punished For Rate-Your-Doctor Posts”

Defamation Montage

FEBRUARY 3, 2012

“Slap: Patient Punished For Rate-Your-Doctor Posts”

William Heisel, Reporting On Health

 I’m not so worried about the ability of Kim Dotcom to keep letting people download free movies from the Web. I’m more worried about Dennis Laurion.

You haven’t heard of Dennis Laurion? To me, he’s a bigger victim of overreach in the new world of online idea exchange.

Laurion’s father had been treated by Dr. David McKee, a neurologist in Duluth, Minnesota. Laurion apparently did not like some of the things that happened during that treatment, and so he posted his thoughts on at least three consumer rating sites. That’s why those sites exist, so that patients can share their knowledge But McKee thought that Laurion was hurting his business, and so he sued to shut Laurion up.

One would think that a suit like this would be laughed out of court, and it was by St. Louis County District Court. But McKee did not take no for an answer. He appealed, and last month, the Minnesota Court of Appeals, sent the case back to district court for trial.

As Mark Stodghill wrote in the Duluth News Tribune:

[[ 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 of 2010. The appellate court determined McKee’s defamation suit should proceed regarding six claims Laurion publicly made about McKee.

[[ That McKee told the patient he had to “spend time finding out if you were transferred or died.’’

[[ That McKee said, “44 percent of hemorrhagic strokes die within 30 days. I guess this is the better option.’’

[[ That McKee said, “You don’t need therapy.’’

[[ That McKee said, “It doesn’t matter’’ that the patients gown did not cover his backside.

[[ That McKee left the patient’s room without talking to the patient’s family.

[[ That a nurse told Laurion that McKee was “a real tool.” ]]

McKee sounded a triumphant note in the Tribune, but Laurion was understandably bummed by the ruling. He wrote to the Tribune: ” 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. In reality, I posted ratings at three consumer rating sites, deleted them, and never rewrote them again, although, to the best of my knowledge, the published statements were made with sincerity.”

Frequent Antidote readers might recognize a pattern here. We wrote last year about doctors and clinics have been trying to force patients to sign away their rights to review medical services on websites. And we wrote about one dentist who had threatened to sue a patient who had written a Yelp review about him.

Might McKee have a point? He very well might. Patients and their families are often emotional and under extreme stress during an illness or surgery. Sensitivities can run high, and something could be misinterpreted. But what disturbs me is the trend toward creating an environment where patients are too scared to report their legitimate criticisms.

Online review sites should not be a forum for falsehoods, but defamation suits against patients who post legitimate critiques of medical services are a threat to free speech and a threat to safe medicine.

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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Larry Emmott, DDS, Recounts Dr. Stacy Mahknevich’s Use Of Medical Justice

AUGUST 22, 2013

“The Perils Of Fighting Negative Online Reviews In The Courts”

Case Study: Stacy Mahknevich, DDS

Larry Emmott, DDS, Emmott on Technology

Online user reviews have become incredibly powerful. Unfortunately the system as it now stands is deeply flawed, ripe for abuse, inherently corrupt. Professionals, especially dentists, are prime targets with virtually no legal protection. As a dental professional your reputation is golden, it is a large part of the value of your practice. Anything that damages that reputation can have significant financial, professional and even legal consequences.

In the past if you had an unhappy patient, and even good dentists will have unhappy patients, he or she might complain to one person at work or a neighbor. At most a handful of people would hear the rant. Today if they post on Google or Yelp, hundreds of people will see it including every potential new patient who Googles your office to find the phone number and address.

If you are the victim of a false or malicious review can you seek a legal remedy? So far the answer is no, the courts both the legal courts and the court of public opinion have clearly come down on the side of the reviewer and against the dentist. Attempts by dentists to protect themselves with legal intervention have led to disaster.

Dr. Stacy Makhnevich, a dentist from New York, contracted with a firm called “Medical Justice” that assured her their contract would protect her from malicious online reviews. Eventually she received what she thought was an unfair patient review and attempted to enforce the agreement. However far from forcing the patient to back down he turned around and sued her with the aid of a “public interest” organization the Public Citizen Litigation Group willing to push the matter. Then the media piled on, the story was picked up by over 200 news outlets including MSNBC, CBS, the Washington Post and Yahoo. She was crucified.

Now a year later a story at Ars Technica reports that Dr. Makhnevich has disappeared. Her lawyers have been unable to get in touch with her, she has closed her business, and her lawyers are looking to withdraw from the case.

I have no idea if the patient review was fair or not. I have no idea how good a dentist Dr. Makhnevich is. The negative review had more to do with billing and insurance than with quality of care. I have no idea if she was maligned and lied about. The sad truth is that none of that matters now; she has been driven from the profession by an online review and her attempts to protect herself.

This issue is far from over. There are numerous suits still pending against review sites such as Yelp. One Texas dentist even threatened a patient with criminal charges over a negative review. We need to strike a balance between free speech, providing accurate information to consumers and the right to protect ourselves from false and malicious attacks. The future is coming and it will be amazing!

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