LEGALLY DUMB

5e7a4-defamation

DECEMBER 14, 2011

“Should a Doctor or Dentist Sue a Patient for Bad-Mouth Comments?”

Stewart Gandolf, Healthcare Success

If a professional reputation is to be protected at all costs, should a healthcare provider file a lawsuit against a patient for a negative online review?

From time to time we see news items about doctors or dentists who threaten legal action against patients. But suing a patient for a negative comment (or comments) is likely to be a bad idea. In fact, it just might be the worst thing to do.

We can sympathize with a practitioner’s frustration and outright anger. Negative comments and online reviews can be untrue, unkind and one sided. What’s more, we’ve never met a doctor, dentist, physician, surgeon or other healthcare provider who isn’t fiercely protective of his or her personal and professional reputation.

Their reputation—real or perceived, in person or online—is the sum of everything they do. And from a physician marketing perspective, their personal and practice reputation is at the heart of their brand and branding message. It’s no wonder that healthcare providers—doctors in particular—are highly sensitive and sometimes nearly fanatical about any and all reflections on their reputation.

We’re not offering legal advice here, but we discussed the concept of online comments with our friend and noted healthcare attorney Stephen Kaufman. He told us, “Sometimes I can convince the website to pull the [offending] comment.  Sometimes, we write a reply. But I have never sued, and I’m hard-pressed to imagine a circumstance where I would recommend doing so.”

And while a lawsuit may “feel” justified, there are good reasons to reconsider the temptation for a dentist or physician to “strike back” in court. From a healthcare public relations and marketing perspective.

The “doctor-sues-patient” story is likely to grab much more media attention than the original patient review. A small local story can suddenly go national. It’s the PR equivalent to throwing gasoline on embers. It’s going to ignite a flash fire with an explosive downside and not much of an upside.

The general public is likely to identify with–and sympathize with–the patient, not the doctor. Other doctors might quietly commiserate a little, but in the larger “court of public opinion” the doctor may be seen as the villain for starting a fight.

The Internet Search Engines will also take notice. Any ensuing controversy about the lawsuit will itself capture high page rankings and will continue to appear in Google search results—and overshadow any positive marketing efforts—perhaps for years.

And then there are the legal costs, the prospect of counter claims and the drain on personal and professional time and resources.

Our comments here do not refer to the merits of any specific situation, and it’s always a good idea to seek professional legal counsel regarding your situation. Physician-rating websites and online reviews and commentary provide patients with a channel to publish their feelings—good, bad or otherwise—about physician performance.

A study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found the majority of such reviews (88%) to be positive, six percent were neutral and six percent were negative.

In our experience, the concept of a healthcare provider suing a patient for an “unfriendly” review should be approached with considerable care. It’s likely to be a “legally dumb” healthcare marketing and PR move.

Stewart Gandolf  is CEO of Healthcare Success Strategies, a medical marketing and health care advertising agency. He is also a frequent writer and speaker.

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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FRESNO BEE: “Fresno Heart Surgeon Sues Man For Defamation”

OCTOBER 14, 2014

“Fresno Heart Surgeon Sues Man For Defamation”
Pablo Lopez, FRESNO BEE

A prominent Fresno heart surgeon who’s accused of leaving an open-heart surgery before his patient’s chest was closed is suing the person who told state investigators about the alleged incident that resulted in a $75,000 fine to Community Regional Medical Center. In his lawsuit, Dr. Pervaiz Chaudhry says James Robillard wasn’t even in the operating room when Silvino Perez’s chest was closed.

He contends Robillard made the entire thing up in order to defame him and ruin his reputation.

He is suing Robillard and his Clovis company, Perfusion Associates of California, for more than $25 million in damages. Robillard did not return a telephone call to comment.

The civil lawsuit, filed last week in Fresno County Superior Court, accuses Robillard of slander, libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Chaudhry says Robillard’s statements to state investigators have cost him millions of dollars in revenue for him and his partners at Valley Cardiac Surgery Medical Group.

He is being represented by Brian C. Leighton, a Clovis attorney who prevailed in a major case against the CIA in 2009 and has gained a reputation for challenging federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A civil suit represents one side in a dispute.

In the lawsuit, Leighton contends Robillard intentionally made false statements against Chaudhry because he believed Chaudhry wanted Robilland’s company to lose its contract with CRMC to provide perfusion services. A perfusionist is a health care professional who operates a heart-lung machine during cardiac surgery and other surgeries that require cardiopulmonary bypass. Leighton said this week that Chaudhry actually liked Robillard’s work. But because of Robillard, Leighton said, “the Valley is about to lose one of the top five thoracic surgeons in the nation.”

Chaudhry made headlines in January when Perez’s family accused him of leaving the operating room — and CRMC — before completing an open-heart procedure on Perez, who was having the operation to repair an ascending aortic aneurysm. The suit contends Chaudhry left an unqualified physician assistant to close Perez’s chest. Because it was not done properly, Perez’s heart stopped, he continued to bleed and lose oxygen, and he had to be put on life support.

Since the operation, Perez, 73, has been in a vegetative state in a nursing home, according San Francisco attorney Jeff Mitchell, who sued Chaudhry on behalf of Perez’s wife, Maria A. Arteaga Alvarez, and stepson Cristobal Arteaga of Sanger.

In the wake of Perez’s lawsuit, at least two other people have sued Chaudhry, accusing him walking out of the operating room before procedures were complete — and that hospital officials knew about it.

A hospital spokeswoman said Monday that Chaudhry still has privileges to do surgeries at CRMC.

Leighton said Robillard’s name appeared in documents from the state investigation that lawyers had subpoenaed. In the documents, the lawyers learned that Community Regional was fined $75,000 by state regulators in October last year for the Perez case.

The documents also quote Chaudhry as admitting he left the operating room at 11:30 a.m. before the chest was closed. But the interviewer notes in the subpoenaed documents say Chaudhry left the operating room after Perez’s chest was closed, Leighton said.

State investigators did a shoddy investigation, Leighton said, because they didn’t interview everyone in the operating room, including the surgeon who assisted Chaudhry and the anesthesiologist assigned to the Perez’s operation, Leighton said. If they had, they would have found out that Chaudhry remained in the room until after the surgery was completed and then supervised the closure of Perez’s chest by the assistant surgeon and physician assistant, “all according to protocol and routine,” Leighton said.

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