MCKEE V. Laurion 2011 – Defendant Wins Dismissal – Plaintiff Appeals


Dr. David McKee

Dr. David McKee

 

Tendentious Lawyer

Marshall Tanick, Esquire

 

Mr. Dennis Laurion

Mr. Dennis Laurion




JANUARY 6, 2011, and JANUARY 7, 2011

McKee V. Laurion, Excerpts From Deposition Of Defendant Laurion

During David McKee MD V. Dennis K. Laurion, Sixth Judicial District Judge Eric Hylden had full transcripts of depositions placed into the case record. Defendant Laurion was deposed from 1:14 p.m. through 5:27 p.m. on Thursday, January 6, 2011. On Friday, January 7, 2010, he was deposed from 9:17 a.m. until 10:30 a. m. The deposition transcript was printed as 247 pages with a 37 page index. The word “factual” appears 6 times, the word “nurse” appears 16 times, the word “nurses” appears 16 times, the word “nursing” appears 5 times, the word “purpose” appears 11 times, the name “Stodghill” appears 19 times, and the word “tool” appears 12 times.

Below are excerpts of the Defendant’s deposition answers about Internet postings and correspondence.

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FULL DEPOSITION




JANUARY 7, 2011

McKee V. Laurion, Deposition Of Plaintiff McKee

The following text is copied from Exhibit AA-156 of David McKee, MD, V. Dennis K. Laurion.

State of Minnesota District Court

Sixth Judicial District

File # 69DU-CV-10-1706

David McKee, MD, Plaintiff, vs. Dennis K. Laurion, Defendant

Deposition of David C. McKee, MD, January 7, 2011

Carol Danielson Bille, RPR, Danielson Court Reporting, LLC The following is the deposition of David C. McKee, MD, taken before Carol Danielson Bille, RPR, Notary Public, pursuant to Notice of Taking Deposition, at the law offices of Hanft Fride, PA, 1000 U. S. Bank Place, 130 West Superior Street, Duluth, Minnesota, commencing at approximately 11:43 a.m., January 7, 2011.

Appearances

For the Plaintiff:

Marshall H. Tanick, Esq.

Mansfield, Tanick, and Cohen, P. A.

1700 U. S. Bank Plaza South

220 South Sixth Street

Minneapolis, Minnesota, 55402-4511

612-339-4295

For the Defendant:

John D. Kelly, Esq.

Nathan N. LaCoursiere, Esq.

Hanft Fride, PA,

1000 U. S. Bank Place,

130 West Superior Street,

Duluth, Minnesota, 55802

218-722-4766

Proceedings

McKee V. Laurion – Dr. David McKee Deposition About Circumstances And Conditions Before Encounter With Laurion Family At St. Luke’s Hospital

McKee V. Laurion – Dr. David McKee Deposed About Encounter With Laurion Family

McKee V. Laurion – Dr. David McKee Deposed About Circumstances And Events After His Encounter With The Laurion Family

McKee V. Laurion: Dr. David McKee Is Questioned By His Own Lawyer After Deposition By Defense Lawyer




JANUARY 25, 2011

Dr. Harry Farb, Obstetrician, Offers Defamation Expert Opinion for McKee V. Laurion Plaintiff David McKee MD

[The following is a replica of a document from the Minnesota defamation lawsuit David McKee M.D. V. Dennis K Laurion.]

“It is my opinion, to a reasonable degree of professional certainty, that the Internet postings made by Defendant Dennis Laurion on or about April 22, 2010, and some of his communications to non-governmental and non-licensing parties, would tend to harm the professional reputation of Dr. David McKee, the Plaintiff in this case. My reasons for this opinion are as follows:”

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JANUARY 28, 2011.

The following is a replica of a document from the Minnesota defamation lawsuit David McKee M.D. V. Dennis K Laurion.


STATE  OF MINNESOTA

DISTRICT  COURT, COUNTY OF ST. LOUIS

SIXTH DISTRICT

Case Type:  Defamation, Court File No.:  69 DV-CV-10-1706


David  McKee, M.D., Plaintiff,

v.

Dennis Laurion,     Defendant.

AFFIDAVIT OF
CHARLES PAYNE


STATE OF MINNESOTA   )
)  SS.
COUNTY  OF HENNEPIN )

CHARLES PAYNE, being first duly sworn under oath, states as follows:

1. My name is CHARLES PAYNE. I am a licensed private investigator in the State of Minnesota, License Number  261. I  have been licensed since 1978. I have been involved in the investigations industry since 1971.

2. My work includes a variety of investigations for various purposes, including civil litigation.

3. I do not know any of the parties in this lawsuit. I do not have any financial stake in the outcome of this case, except I am being paid my normal hourly rate for my work in this matter.

4. I have been asked to locate an individual who was identified as a “friend” nurse of Defendant Dennis Laurion, to whom Laurion attributes the statement “He is a real tool,” in reference  to  Dr.  David McKee. Defendant Laurion used this phrase in his website postings and various correspondence  that  he  wrote  to  professional  organizations,  colleagues, and peers of Dr. McKee, which I understand form the basis for this lawsuit.

5. Having been asked to locate this individual, the  only  criteria provided by Mr. Laurion of his “friend” nurse is less than minimal. Mr. Laurion maintains that she was someone with whom he worked while he was a part-time employee for about seven years at St. Mary’s Medical Center in outpatient records, but he does not know her name. He gave a very limited physical description of her as  in  her  50’s,  about  5’6″ tall, dark blond or light brunette hair, graying, with a “trim” build. The representation that he does not even recall her first name makes this search virtually impossible.

6. Mr. Laurion was not able to identify any particular unit of  the hospital she worked, other than she had  some  outpatient  position.  He gave the names of some other personnel with whom he worked.

7. I have instituted efforts to begin to try to locate this  person.  I am severely handicapped by the very limited information furnished by Mr. Laurion, which is surprisingly sparse for a person whom he said was a “friend,” and whom he worked with for some seven years.

8. My efforts to locate this person included  the  following:

•    I have instituted research with the Minnesota Board of Nursing, located at 2829 University Ave. SE, Minneapolis, MN to determine the number of nurses that are currently and had historically been licensed with the State of Minnesota since 01/ 01/ 2000 in St. Louis County. Our preliminary research determined that in St. Louis County there are 4048 current licensees that are female. Using the event of Mr. Laurion meeting this individual at the Lakeside Post Office which  is  located  at  4427 E. Superior Street, Duluth, MN 55804, I have begun to have the search narrowed to the 55804 zip code. At the time of this writing, it is believed there are 560 licensees in that zip code having held a nursing license since  01/ 01/ 2000.

•    With the gross absence of any identifying information  and without  access to the Human Resources at St. Mary’s Hospital,  these  reasonable  efforts are the  only avenue of research  currently  underway.

•    As this research has only recently begun, extensive further  research needs to take place in addition to contacts with these prospective individuals to identify the “friend” nurse. If the person exists, which is uncertain, it will require more detailed information from Mr. Laurion in order to find her. I am told that Mr. Laurion has made no efforts to find her himself. If she does exist, Mr. Laurion presumably has more information about her that would allow us to locate her.

The above is true and correct to the best of my knowledge.

Dated: January 28, 2011
/S/ CHARLES PAYNE

Subscribed and sworn to before me
This day of January 2011

/S/ Notary Public                                                      [ Seal ]




JANUARY 28, 2011

McKee V. Laurion: Defendant’s Parents File Affidavits In Support Of Motion For Summary Judgment

In sworn affidavits notarized January 28, 2011, Defendant Laurion’s parents related that they were both present when Dr. David McKee examined Kenneth Laurion. Each related what they recalled about the visit.

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January 31, 2011

In David McKee MD V. Dennis K. Laurion, Defendant Laurion filed a Supplemental Memorandum In Support Of Defendant’s Motion For Summary Judgment.

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JANUARY 31, 2011

David McKee MD V. Dennis K. Laurion

Memorandum In Opposition To Motion For Summary Judgment

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FEBRUARY 4, 2011

McKee V. Laurion: Laurion Files Reply Memo In Support of Motion For Summary Judgment

Defendant Dennis Laurion Filed A Reply Memorandum In Support of Motion For Summary Judgment.

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 FEBRUARY 10, 2011

“Duluth Man Fights Defamation Suit By Doctor He Criticized”

Mark Stodghill, DULUTH NEWS TRIBUNE

A Duluth physician who sued a patient’s son for defamation was in court as the son attempted to have the case thrown out. Dr. David McKee, a neurologist with Northland Neurology and Myology, Duluth, Minnesota, filed the lawsuit against Dennis Laurion of Duluth in St. Louis County District Court in 2010. McKee alleges that Laurion defamed him and interfered with his business by criticizing him by making false statements on websites and to various third parties including other physicians in Duluth, the St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services Advisory Committee, St. Luke’s hospital and professional organizations.

Laurion’s father, Kenneth, now 85 and a Navy combat medic in the Solomon Islands during World War II, suffered a hemorrhagic stroke and was treated by McKee at St. Luke’s hospital April 19. He recovered from his condition. However, he and his family allege that McKee was rude and insensitive to the patient in his actions and comments.

The defendants claim that when McKee didn’t find Kenneth Laurion in the Intensive Care Unit, he said: “I had to find out whether you had transferred or died.” McKee confirmed in deposition that he made the statement, but claimed it was a jocular comment meant to relieve tension.

Kenneth Laurion, his defendant son, and daughter-in-law were in the courtroom Thursday, as was plaintiff McKee. McKee is asking for more than $50,000 in damages. Laurion claims that any statements he made about the doctor were true and that he is immune from any liability.

Duluth defense attorney John Kelly argued that his client’s statements were substantially true, were statements of opinion and couldn’t be demonstrated to be false. “He is standing up and speaking out for his father. That is his motivation … in the hope that something gets done,” Kelly told the court.

McKee is represented by Minneapolis attorney Marshall Tanick. Tanick told the court that Laurion used the websites as a “weapon of mass destruction” to injure the reputation of McKee, place the doctor in a negative light and impugn his professional practice.

In a written motion, Tanick wrote, “The totality of statements made on these websites would be injurious to the reputation and standing of a doctor in the eyes of others who might see it, including patients or prospective patients, colleagues, peers, referral sources, and others.”

Sixth Judicial District Judge Eric Hylden is presiding over the case. As the parties introduced themselves to the court, Hylden told them it was a “very interesting type of case.”

FULL ARTICLE




FEBRUARY 15, 2011

“The WWII Vet vs. The Doctor: A Case Of Internet Defamation Law”

The Kelly Law Firm

In April of 2010, World War II Veteran, Kenneth Laurion, was treated for a hemorrhagic stroke by Dr. David McKee, a neurologist, at St. Luke’s Hospital. During Mr. Laurion’s time in the hospital, his family alleged that Dr. McKee’s behavior was unacceptable and beyond reproach. The good doc, they claimed, lacked common sensitivity, in both actions and comments, towards patient Kenneth and the rest of the Laurion clan. To air his personal grievances, Dennis Laurion, Kenneth’s son, took to the Internet and commented on his displeasure with Dr. McKee.

In June, Dr. McKee filed a defamation lawsuit against Dennis. McKee’s attorney, Marshall Tanick, called Laurion’s alleged defamatory remarks ,”weapons of mass destruction” (Oh yes, he went there). Tanick also argued that “The totality of statements made on these websites would be injurious to the reputation and standing of a doctor in the eyes of others who might see it, including patients or prospective patients, colleagues, peers, referral sources, and others.”

On February 8th, accompanied by his wife and father, Dennis Laurion found himself in the Sixth Judicial District Court. He explained how when he went to the intensive care unit to check on his father, he overheard Dr. McKee quip, “I had to find out whether you had been transferred or died.”

In a deposition, McKee acknowledged he had made the statement, but insists it was in good humor and intended to alleviate tension.

Dr. McKee is seeking excess of $50,000. The Laurions and their lawyer, John Kelly, claim any statements made about the doctor were true, thereby rendering Dennis Laurion immune from any liability. In the eyes of Kelly, Laurion’s comments were opinions that cannot be demonstrated to be false in court.

Eric Hylden, the presiding judge, labeled the case as “very interesting.” Later, Hylden implied that, Constitutionally, Dennis certainly has a right to an opinion, but then went on to question whether or not there is some limitation to what citizens can say in an online public forum.

Hylden has 90 days to mull over the issue before his summary judgment ruling is due. Between you, me and the lamppost, it certainly does seem like someone’s itching to make some Internet defamation law history.  For First Amendment warriors, the Internet defamation case of Dr. McKee vs. Dennis Laurion is one to follow.




 

MARCH 24, 2011

“A Physician Review Gone Wrong”

Brett Pollard, ALERT PRESENCE

For several years now, I have been actively involved in issues related to reputation management for physicians. It’s an issue I’ve discussed at length with clients and offered thoughts on this blog. Through my research, I have come across some pretty interesting examples of the challenges physicians face in a world where there are dozens of online review sites. However, I stumbled across a very interesting situation where a doctor’s decision to sue the son of one of his patients for a negative review resulted in a reputation disaster.

After the lawsuit was detailed twice in a Minnesota newspaper, a local resident took action by posting a critical comment and link (screenshot below) on the social news site, Reddit. With a user-controlled ranking system Reddit features the most popular posts to an audience generating over 1 million page visits per day. As you might expect, negative exposure on a site like this leads to undesirable consequences.

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 APRIL 27, 2011

Excerpted from McKee V. Laurion


STATE OF MINNESOTA

DISTRICT COURT

ST. LOUIS COUNTY

SIXTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT


David McKee, M.D., Plaintiff

V.

Dennis K. Laurion

File No. 69-DU-CV-10-1706

Court’s Order On Defendant’s Motion For Summary Judgment


The above-captioned matter came before the undersigned judge of District Court on February 10, 201 1, pursuant to Defendant’s motion f or summary judgment.Plaintiff was represented at the hearing by his attorney, Marshall H. Tanick. Defendant was represented at the hearing by his attorney, John D. Kelly. The Court reviewed all of the submissions made by the parties, including the affidavits, and also requested and received the whole deposition transcript of Defendant [sic] McKee.

Based on all of the foregoing, and deeming itself fully advised on the premises, the Court hereby issues the following:

ORDERS:

  1. Defendant’s motion for summary judgment is granted.
  2. Plaintiff’s claimed is dismissed, with prejudice.
  3. The attached memorandum of law is incorporated herein by reference.

Dated this 27th day of April, 2011

BY THE COURT:

Eric L. Hylden

Judge of District Court

 The foregoing constitutes the judgment of the Court in this matter.

Dated this 27th  day of April, 2011.

/S/

Marietta Johnson

Court Administrator

MEMORANDUM OF LAW




APRIL 28, 2011

“Judge Tosses Duluth 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.

FULL ARTICLE

Summary Judgment




APRIL 29, 2011

“Judge Throws Out Neurologist’s Defamation Lawsuit Against Patient’s Son”
STAR TRIBUNE

DULUTH, Minn. – A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Duluth neurologist who claimed he was defamed by a patient’s son who criticized the doctor’s bedside manner.

Dr. David McKee alleged in his lawsuit that Dennis Laurion of Duluth made false statements about McKee’s treatment of Laurion’s father to the American Academy of Neurology, St. Luke’s Hospital, colleagues and others. The lawsuit said Laurion alleged McKee failed to treat his father with dignity following a stroke and told him he didn’t need therapy.

McKee tells the Duluth News Tribune that Laurion is “a liar and a bully and a coward.” McKee says he hasn’t decided whether he will appeal Judge Eric Hylden’s ruling. The judge said Laurion’s statements as a whole were not defamatory, but rather “an emotional discussion of the issues.”

Laurion says the lawsuit has been stressful for his whole family and he’s grateful the judge found no need for a trial.

COMMENTS

Nomeds : Wow, if the good Doctor was concerned about the statments made by another, he should really be concerned that this has hit the newspapers.

rusty123: Sounds like the good doctor needs to go back to school to learn the definition of defamatory.

dymoman: Wow, a “good doctor” says that Laurion is “liar, bully, coward”. Sounds like a defamation to me.

drfrankt:  2 classes that should be required for MD’s before graduation and licensure…Bedside Manners (you are not infallible) and Legible Handwriting!

whadjawant:  we need to get over the “doctor-god-complex” we’ve evolved. (1) doctors are human and fallible. (2) their mistakes should be public knowledge – just like mechanics and plubmers – its ok to share information – in PUBLIC formums. (3) patients need to know what the doctors are like AND what the persons complaining about them is like. Fair is Fair.

goferfanz: More proof the civil courtroom is run by lawyers, for trial lawyers. For all the inane medmal lawsuits that go to trial, this one cant even get to a courtroom? Ah yes, our civil courts—>probably the top reason that American jobs have gone overseas (what does Walmart get, like 20 new civil lawsuits a day?). How’s the economy everyone……ask a lawyer, starting with Barry and his pals!

mattmosc: This doctor was my brother-in-laws neurologist. He knows his craft well, but he is short, curt and to the point when he was giving the family his outcome. I was happy he didn’t beat around the bush. Sadly he passed away, but he did not give us false hope!

minnesotacha: I see your point. We should give as much money as possible to corporations, who will surely put the concerns of average citizens such as ourselves above menial profits. We should also do away with the First Amendment so these wonderful companies do not have to hear criticisms which, by definition, must be false.

swmnguy:  Thanks for the insight. That’s what I was suspecting about this doctor from reading the story. Some of these high-powered specialists are almost like people with Asperger’s, in their lack of tact. Beyond the lack of tact, they often don’t listen to advice. The doctor ought to be better with patients’ families, but he’s human so he isn’t. But he also ought to have the sense to leave a bad situation alone and not try to sue under these circumstances. Now he’s goofed twice. Whether he likes it or not, he is in a field that deals with the public. If he’s not capable of it, he needs to hire a personal assistant who is. But guys like this are often so out of sync with normal human emotions they can’t even tell how out of sync they are and they can’t imagine how other people get so upset by them.

FULL ARTICLE




APRIL 29, 2011

“Judge Throws Out Duluth Doctor’s Defamation Lawsuit”

Minnesota Public Radio News

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Duluth neurologist who claimed he was defamed by a patient’s son who criticized the doctor’s bedside manner. The judge said Laurion’s statements as a whole were not defamatory, but rather “an emotional discussion of the issues.”

Dr. David McKee alleged in his lawsuit that Dennis Laurion of Duluth made false statements about McKee’s treatment of Laurion’s father to the American Academy of Neurology, St. Luke’s Hospital, colleagues and others. The lawsuit said Laurion alleged McKee failed to treat his father with dignity following a stroke and told him he didn’t need therapy.

McKee tells the Duluth News Tribune that Laurion is “a liar and a bully and a coward.” McKee says he hasn’t decided whether he will appeal Judge Eric Hylden’s ruling.

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MAY 2, 2011

“Physicians Who Sue Patients Don’t Get What They Want”

ACP INTERNIST

A physician claiming he was defamed online by a former patient’s son lost his court case after the judge dismissed the suit. The case illustrates the perils of suing when a patient criticizes a physician online. The judge in the case said that the patient’s son expressed emotional responses to his father’s care on the Internet, but that’s allowed in society. And, the judge wrote, expressing it on the Internet doesn’t make the opinions more defamatory.

The case in Minnesota was against one known defendant, the son of a patient who alleged that neurosurgeon David McKee, MD, became upset in consulting with the family about the patient’s condition, and that McKee didn’t treat the patient with dignity.

The lawsuit alleged that the son complained to 19 medical and professional societies, government agencies at all levels, the hospital and to other physicians (as well as posted Internet comments using several aliases).

The neurologist told the DULUTH NEWS TRIBUNE that, “I’ll make the observation that every one of those organizations that was required to make an official decision or take an official action either determined that the statement that he made was so ludicrous that it required no response from me at all or decided that his complaint had no merit.”

But the judge decided that physician’s complaints didn’t merit a jury’s consideration.

“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.”

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MAY 3, 2011

“Dealing With A Negative Online Review On A Physician Rating Site”

Kevin Pho, MD, KEVINMD

Whenever I speak about social media to doctors across the country, I often get asked, “How do I deal with a negative online review?” Here’s one way not to handle it: sue the patient writing the review.

There’s a well publicized case in Minnesota, where a resident posted a screenshot of the situation on REDDIT, and wrote: “This dickface doctor from my hometown is suing a WWII veteran’s family for $50,000 for rating him poorly on the Internet. Perhaps he deserves a few more poor ratings …”  REDDIT, for those who don’t know, is a social news service, and receives millions of page views daily. As a testament to its visibility, that screenshot shows the link received 635 comments. The exposure on REDDIT triggered scores of clearly fabricated negative reviews on the physician’s GOOGLE PLACES page, HEALTHGRADES, and VITALS.  So, if the doctor was so worried about negative reviews before, the situation is much worse now.

Doctors shouldn’t try to remove negative online ratings. Previous attempts have failed, and in this case, suing the patient has compounded an already bad situation.

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MAY 9, 2011

“Judge Throws Out Doctor’s Defamation Lawsuit Against Patient’s Son”

INQUISITR [ citing GRAND FORKS HERALD via CONSUMERIST ]

Pissed off consumers can take a deep breath and keep ranting, for now – a judge in North Dakota [ sic ] has thrown out a defamation lawsuit brought by a doctor against a man who complained to websites and regulatory bodies about the care received by his father.

Neurologist, Dr. David McKee, alleged in his lawsuit that the patient’s father [ sic ], Dennis Laurion, defamed McKee and his practice in “false statements” made 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,” damaging his practice. Laurion contended he was immune from legal action because the statements he made were true.

In an 18-page order, Sixth Judicial District Judge Eric Hylden recognized the influence of the internet on how information such as that shared by Laurion can impact a practice or business: “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.”

McKee’s suit addressed some of the more subjective claims made by Laurion. 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;
  • McKee told the Laurion family that he had to “spend time finding out if [the patient] had been transferred or died;”
  • McKee told the Laurions that 44 percent of hemorrhagic stroke victims die within 30 days;
  • McKee told the patient that he didn’t need therapy;
  • McKee said it didn’t matter that the patient’s gown was hanging from his neck with his backside exposed;
  • McKee blamed the patient for the loss of his time; and
  • McKee didn’t treat his patient with dignity.

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MAY 10, 2011

“Court Says Complaining About Doctor’s Bedside Manner Is Not Defamation”

Mike Masnick, TECH DIRT

We keep hearing stories about doctors suing patients for bad reviews. However, there’s some good news, in that a recent court ruling was pretty clear that complaining about your doctor is not defamation. In this case, it wasn’t even just complaining via online reviews, but the son of the patient filed complaints about the doctor’s treatment and bedside manner with “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.” In other words, the son was not happy with Dr. David McKee and made that widely known.

The court clearly saw someone who was upset and emotional, and saw no defamatory intent: 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.”

As for the public online reviews that the son filed also? Perfectly reasonable: “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.”

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 MAY 10, 2011

“DOCTOR SUES PATIENT’S FAMILY, AND EVERYBODY LOSES”
Karol Katarsky, HEALTHCARE BUSINESS & TECHNOLOGY

Dr. David McKee, a neurologist with Northland Neurology and Myology, Duluth, Minnesota, filed a lawsuit against Dennis Laurion, alleging he had made untrue and defamatory statements about the doctor’s treatment of Laurion’s father at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth.

Laurion had filed complaints about McKee with several organizations, including St. Luke’s Hospital, the St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services Advisory Committee, the American Academy of Neurologists, the American Neurological Association, as well as other local health care professionals. The complaints were lodged with a total of 19 different agencies, regulatory bodies and health-related websites. McKee claimed that many of the comments were made by Laurion using false names, or attributing the complaints to third-parties.

Laurion’s complaints about McKee included that he:

•    acted angry after Laurion’s father was transferred from intensive care to another unit
told the family that he had to spend time finding out if Laurion’s father had been transferred or died

•    said 44% of hemorrhagic stroke victims die within 30 days, and

•    was unconcerned that the patient’s gown at one point was hanging in such a way that his rear was exposed.

In his response to the suit, Laurion claimed the statements were true, and therefore, not defamatory.

A judge tossed the case, saying there wasn’t enough objective information available to ask a jury to weigh whether the accusations were defamatory. He noted that while the issues raised were driven by emotion, patients and their families are entitled to take to the web and other media to air their complaints.

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 MAY 14, 2011

“Minnesota Judge Dismisses Online Defamation Lawsuit; World War II Vet Emerges Victorious”

KELLY WARNER LAW FIRM

Kenneth-Vernon-L-WWII-Navy-PO2

Several months ago, McKee vs. Laurion landed in Judge Hylden’s rotation. Dr. McKee, the plaintiff, filed civil charges against Dennis Laurion, the defendant, after several unflattering missives about the doctor appeared online.

Laurion’s father, Kenneth, a World War II veteran, had been treated by McKee after a hemorrhagic stroke. Suffice it to say, Dennis was not impressed with the neurologist’s medical prowess or bedside manner. Disturbed, Laurion took to the Internet and wasn’t shy about sharing his opinions.

Feeling stunted, McKee decided to fight back via the courts. That’s why, last June, with the help of attorney Marshall Tanick, McKee filed an online defamation lawsuit claim in Duluth. He accused the younger Laurion of publishing spurious claims which negatively affected his (McKee’s) professional status.

Attorneys across the country enthusiastically followed the online defamation lawsuit; after all, it had the potential to establish online defamation legal precedence.

In February, at the summary judgment hearing, Judge Hylden openly questioned whether or not online commentary limits needed to be legally established.

After considering both arguments and mulling over the issue for several weeks, the Minnesota Judge stuck with current legal convention and dismissed the online defamation lawsuit case. In the end, Hylden decided there simply wasn’t enough objective material for a jury to consider.

Undoubtedly dejected after hearing about the dismissal, Dr. McKee spat out a few choice words; “Dennis Laurion,” crowed McKee, “is a liar and a bully and a coward.” (Clearly, McKee could have also used the help of a public relations representative.)

SEE MORE




MAY 14, 2011

“Doctors Should Not Sue Patients For Negative Online Reviews”

Kevin Pho, MD, KEVIN’S TAKE

The case of the neurologist who sued a patient for a negative online review has come to an end. Predictably, the court ruled against the physician and dismissed the lawsuit.

The physician was upset by the slew of negative online reviews he received, and claimed that the patient, 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.

I wrote previously that doctors shouldn’t try and remove online ratings, but instead, ask more of his patients to go online and rate them.   Chances are, they will be positive.

In the latest Pew Internet data, only 16% of internet users of gone online to rate their doctors and hospitals.  Such a low number makes physician review sites only marginally useful, if at all.

The physician, apparently, still couldn’t over the judge’s decision.  When asked to comment, here’s what he said:  [The patient] is a liar and a bully and a coward … He knowingly made false and malicious statements about me to a total of 19 different professional and medical organizations, regulatory agencies and websites. He often used false names and attributed his statements to fictitious third parties. I’ll make the observation that every one of those organizations that was required to make an official decision or take an official action either determined that the statement that he made was so ludicrous that it required no response from me at all or decided that his complaint had no merit.

Now, that really is unnecessary.  Perhaps he realized he had nothing more to lose when it came to his online reputation, but this certainly makes the situation immeasurably worse.

No matter what kind of merit he thought the case had, doctors who sue patients for online ratings are going to lose in the more influential court of public opinion.

REMARKS




MAY 16, 2011

“Minnesota Doctor Loses Effort To Sue Patient’s Son For Defamation About His Allegedly Poor Bedside Manners”

Jonathan Turley, JONATHAN TURLEY BLOG

Dr. David McKee, a neurologist with Northland Neurology and Myology, has failed in his bid to sue the son of a former patient for complaining about his bedside manners, including statements to professional associations and posting comments on the Internet. Sixth Judicial District Judge Eric Hylden wisely dismissed the action.

According to [ an article in the DULUTH NEWS TRIBUNE ], Dennis Laurion of Duluth complained 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.

His father, Kenneth Laurion, Dennis was shocked by what he viewed as McKee poor treatment of his father. Dennis listed an array of statements that he said were made by McKee including:

  1. Angry comments by McKee over the fact that Laurion had been transferred from the Intensive Care Unit to a ward room;
  1. Verbal complaint by McKee that he had to “spend time finding out if [the patient] had been transferred or died;”
  1. Observations that 44 percent of hemorrhagic stroke victims die within 30 days;
  1. Dismissive statements that Laurion didn’t need therapy;
  1. Dismissive statements that he did not care about the fact that the patient’s gown was hanging from his neck with his backside exposed;
  1. Blaming the patient for the loss of his time; and
  1. Generally treating Laurion with a lack of respect or dignity.

Judge Hylden wrote: “In modern society, there needs to be some give and take, some ability for parties to air their differences. 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.”

Dr. McKee seemed intent on responding to the case but giving his own example of protected opinion: “Dennis Laurion is a liar and a bully and a coward. He knowingly made false and malicious statements about me to a total of 19 different professional and medical organizations, regulatory agencies and websites. He often used false names and attributed his statements to fictitious third parties. I’ll make the observation that every one of those organizations that was required to make an official decision or take an official action either determined that the statement that he made was so ludicrous that it required no response from me at all or decided that his complaint had no merit.”

SEE MORE




 MAY 16, 2011

“Ticked Off Doctor Sues Patient’s Son for Comments About Bedside Manner”
Trisha Torrey, ABOUT.com GUIDE

In April 2010, Kenneth Laurion, a man in his mid-80s from Duluth, Minnesota, suffered a stroke. His doctor, Dr. David McKee, must have been a real S. O. B. – abrupt and rude at the very least.

As a result, Mr. Laurion’s son, Dennis, contacted the powers-that-be to complain. He recounted his experience to groups like the American Academy of Neurology, the American Neurological Association, two physicians in Duluth, Minnesota (where all this took place) the St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services Advisory Committee and St. Luke’s hospital, and others – 19 in total.

Dennis Laurion told those groups that Dr. McKee (quoted here from the Duluth News Tribune): . . . “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.

In return, Dr. McKee got ticked off, defended his actions – and sued Dennis Laurion for making libelous statements.

But the judge dismissed the suit citing the fact that there was no evidence to show the doctor had been harmed, and stated that nothing defamatory had taken place – that his statements seemed to be more about an emotional discussion of the issues.

In an e-mail to the News Tribune, Laurion said “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,” Laurion wrote. “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 . . .”

But the bottom line, to me, is this. . . . decent medical care requires a variety of skills from our doctors including the mechanics of medicine, and the respectful communications that go along with that, too. By reporting the transgressions of Dr. David McKee to those many groups he interfaces with, Dennis Laurion did Dr. McKee’s future patients a favor.Next time around, Dr. McKee will think twice before he accosts his patients and their families with his insulting and callous behavior. And that’s as it should be.

SEE MORE

REMARKS




May 16, 2011

Minnesota Doctor Loses Effort To Sue Patient’s Son For Defamation

cvictorg in Meso RX Forums

Dr. David McKee, a neurologist with Northland Neurology and Myology, has failed in his bid to sue the son of a former patient for complaining about his bedside manners, including statements to professional associations and posting comments on the Internet. Sixth Judicial District Judge Eric Hylden wisely dismissed the action.

SEE MORE




MAY 18, 2011

“Judge Dismisses Doctor’s Suit Over Online Posting – Patient’s Son Complained Neurologist Was Insensitive”

Truman Lewis, CONSUMER AFFAIRS

A Minnesota judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by a neurologist who objected to online criticisms posted by a patient’s son. Dr. David McKee of Duluth sued Dennis Laurion for defamation after Laurion posted critical comments about McKee’s bedside manner. But St. Louis County District Court Judge Eric L. Hylden said the statements were “nothing more or less than one man’s description of shock at the way he and in particular his father were treated by his physician” and said there was no reason to treat online comments any differently than more traditional means of expression.

Laurion said in his postings that McKee had been brusque and insensitive while examining Kenneth Laurion, 83, who had been hospitalized with a stroke. McKee reportedly said in front of the patient that 44 percent of hemorrhagic stroke victims die within the first 30 days. “I guess this is the better option,” McKee said, according to Laurion. McKee also told the elder Laurion that when he could not find Laurion in intensive care, it took him a while to track him down to the regular room to which he had been moved. McKee said he had “spent time finding out if you were transferred or died,” Laurion’s postings said.

McKee denied making the statements and sued Laurion for $50,000. After Judge Hylden said he found “no defamatory meaning” in Laurion’s posts, McKee was quoted as calling Laurion “a liar, a bully and a coward,” Courthouse News Service reported.

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MAY 19, 2001

“Judge Tosses Suit Over Bad Review Of Doctor’s Work”

ON POINT NEWS

A Minnesota judge has boosted free-speech protections for online commentary by finding a neurologist cannot sue a patient’s son over criticisms of his bedside manner that allegedly damaged his professional reputation.

Dennis Laurion posted comments on doctor rating websites in which he vented about how Dr. David McKee of Duluth, Minn., treated his father while performing a neurological examination on him. Kenneth Laurion, 84, was recovering from a stroke at a hospital.

At one point in the examination, Dennis Laurion wrote, McKee said “it doesn’t matter” when someone mentioned that the patient’s gown had come open, exposing his backside.

But St. Louis County District Court Judge Eric L. Hylden took a refreshingly direct approach in summarily dismissing McKee’s defamation lawsuit. “Taken as a whole, the statements in this case appear to be nothing more or less than one man’s description of shock at the way he and in particular his father were treated by his physician,” he said in a recent decision. He also suggested that Internet postings are as deserving of protection as other forms of speech: In modern society, there needs to be some give and take, some ability for parties to air their differences. Today, those disagreements may take place on various Internet sources. Because the medium has changed, however, does not make statements of this kind any more or less defamatory.

After hearing of the decision, McKee exercised his First Amendment rights by describing Laurion as “a liar and a bully and a coward.” He said he would confer with his attorney before deciding whether to appeal.

The Laurions had their fateful encounter with Dr. McKee at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth after Kenneth was moved from intensive care to a standard room. In his online postings, the younger Laurion said McKee was insensitive toward his father, telling him he’d had to “spend time finding out if you were transferred or died.”

He also quoted McKee as saying, “Forty-four percent of hemorrhagic strokes die within 30 days. I guess this is the better option.”

McKee, who sued for more than $50,000 in damages in June 2010, alleged that all of Dennis Laurion’s statements were completely false. But “[l]ooking at the statements as a whole,” Hylden found no “defamatory meaning, but rather a sometimes emotional discussion of the issues.”

SEE MORE




MAY 19, 2011

“How Doctors Should Handle Negative Reviews Online”

Tom Sullivan, Turbo Medical Marketing

One common concern with doctors when it comes to social media is review sites. Many think that if they simply avoid review sites they’ll avoid any bad publicity that comes from them. This is a common misconception that couldn’t be further from the truth.

But what do you do when you do get a negative review? How do you respond? Well you don’t want to do what this doctor did and try to sue. Word got out through social media about what this doctor was attempting to do and that sparked a firestorm of even more negative reviews!

Apparently one person posted a screenshot of the situation on Reddit, and wrote: “This dickface doctor from my hometown is suing a WWII veteran’s family for $50,000 for rating him poorly on the Internet.  Perhaps he deserves a few more poor ratings …”

 SEE MORE




MAY 24, 2011

“Online Bedside Manner”

Admin, ONLINE DEFAMATION LAW SUITS

Everyday, it seems, there is an online defamation suit being filed of some notoriety. McKee v. Laurion (*) caught my eye because of the seemingly mild manner of the complaint. A judge dismissed a lawsuit concerning online defamation when a doctor brought a suit against the son of a patient, whom he saw for a stroke, because of the son’s postings on an online review website.

But St. Louis County District Court Judge Eric L. Hylden said the statements were “nothing more or less than one man’s description of shock at the way he and in particular his father were treated by his physician” and said there was no reason to treat online comments any differently than more traditional means of expression.

While I disagree that chatting it up with your friend about a doctor’s bedside manner is the same as posting an online review or comment about him, I get the basic point of what the judge is saying. There is no reason to intervene here because in the end, the son is just expressing his opinion about the services rendered by the doctor. Ultimately, this boils down to the doctor wanting to protect his online reputation. If that is his real concern, he should turn to reputation management instead of lawsuits.

* MCKEE V LAURION

SEE MORE




JUNE 12, 2011

“Online Criticisms of Physicians . . . Lawsuits Are Not The Answer”

The Nicodemo & Wilson Bulls-Eye Blog

It’s a brave new Internet world. There are scads of online ratings services that now allow you to rate and discuss your interactions with professionals, including doctors. One Minnesota doctor, who did not appreciate a scathing summary of his interaction with a patient, took the drastic step of suing the reviewer (the patient’s son) for defamation.

A Minnesota judge who heard the case tossed it out, however, ruling that the reviewer’s comments were opinions that were protected by the constitutional right of free speech: In modern society, there needs to be some give and take, some ability for parties to air their differences. Today, those disagreements may take place on various Internet sources. Because the medium has changed, however, does not make statements of this kind any more or less defamatory.

First Amendment free speech considerations aside, as a practical matter, all this lawsuit did was bring more attention and negative publicity to the online review, and now this physician may be seen as someone who is not opposed to suing his own patients. The old adage “if you’re in a hole, stop digging it deeper” applies here to playing the lawsuit card.

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 June 14, 2011

“No Day In Court for a Minnesota Physician Who Was Slammed On Line”

Michael J. Sacopulos, Esq., MEDICAL JUSTICE

Westlaw Journal recently reported that a judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Duluth neurologist who claimed he was defamed by a patient’s son that criticized his bedside manner. Dr. David McKee alleged in his lawsuit that Dennis Laurion of Duluth made false statements about McKee’s treatment of Laurion’s father to the American Academy of Neurology, St. Luke’s Hospital, colleagues and several internet websites that “solicit physician reviews and ratings.” Laurion alleged McKee failed to treat his father with dignity following a stroke. Further, Laurion posted that McKee treated his father as a “task and charting assignment.”

This defamation case came before Judge Hylden of St. Louis County, MN. Judge Hylden, who dismissed the case stating the allegedly defamatory statements were more an issue of the parties “talking about the same thing” but from different points of view. [This is difficult for me to imagine…] Additionally, the judge thought the matter unworthy of a jury’s time. At this time it is unknown if McKee will appeal the trial court’s dismissal.

READ MORE




JUNE 14, 2011

“Web-Criticized Duluth Doctor Says He Still Wants His Day In Court”

Christa Lawler, DULUTH NEWS TRIBUNE

A Duluth physician whose defamation suit against a former patient’s son was thrown out of district court said he has no choice but to file an appeal.

Dr. David McKee, a neurologist with Northland Neurology and Myology, said he is still being targeted in online attacks related to the lawsuit he filed in June 2010 against Dennis Laurion.

“It appears that Mr. Laurion made over 100 adverse postings on the Internet once he became aware that he was going to receive a favorable decision on the motion for summary judgment,” McKee said. “Appealing seems to me the only way to curb the activities of this malicious person.”

Laurion said he has not posted anything on the Internet about McKee since the lawsuit was filed last June. Laurion said he was aware there was an influx of Internet chatter about McKee after a link to a story about McKee appeared on the high-traffic website reddit.com.

Kenneth Laurion spent four days at St. Luke’s hospital in April 2010. John Kelly, Dennis Laurion’s lawyer, told the News Tribune last summer they didn’t feel McKee acted appropriately toward their father, and they reported it to the hospital and Board of Medical Practice.

SEE MORE

ASSOCIATED PRESS




 JUNE 25, 2011

“Duluth Doctor Appealing Judge’s Decision To Toss Out Defamation Suit” 

Grand Forks Herald 

A Duluth, Minnesota, physician whose defamation suit against a former patient’s son was thrown out of district court said he has no choice but to file an appeal. Dr. David McKee, a neurologist with Northland Neurology and Myology, said he still is being targeted in online attacks related to the lawsuit he filed in June 2010 against Dennis Laurion.

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JUNE 27, 2011, And JUNE 30, 2011

In June 2011, Dr. David McKee of McKee V. Laurion filed an appeal of the dismissal of David McKee MD V. Dennis Laurion. His Statement Of The Case of Appellant is reproduced below, as is Statement of the Case of Respondent.


From The Plaintiff, June 27, 2014:

4. Brief description of claims, defenses, issues litigated and result.

Appellant McKee, a physician in private practice in Duluth, provided medical treatment to the father of Respondent Laurion at a hospital in Duluth. Respondent made numerous postings on the Internet, which he termed a “factual recitation,” and wrote several letters to Dr. McKee’s professional colleagues that were highly critical of the doctor’s treatment. Laurion’s “factual recitation” contained many inaccurate or fabricated facts, including an assertion that the doctor endangered the safety of the patient.   The Internet postings were widely available and were seen by others, as were the disparaging letters. Dr. McKee maintains that the Internet postings and letters falsely described the treatment he furnished to Laurion’s father and that the statements harmed his reputation and his business. He sued Laurion for defamation and interference with business.

The Trial Court granted Laurion’s Motion for Summary Judgment on grounds that the statements were not defamatory because they were constitutionally­ protected opinions or otherwise not actionable. The Court dismissed the entire lawsuit without addressing the separate interference claim.


From The Respondent, June 30, 2011:

3. State type of litigation and designate any statutes at issue.

Defamation. Appellant’s complaint also asserts a claim for “interference with business” which is wholly dependent on proving defamation.

4. Brief description of claims, defenses, issues litigated and result.

Appellant claims that Respondent made 11 allegedly defamatory statements about him in Internet postings and letters to various groups. Respondent denies that any statements he made about Dr. McKee were defamatory. Respondent moved for summary judgment on the grounds that his statements were constitutionally protected statements of opinion, the gist and substance of his statements were true, and all of his statements were entitled to qualified privilege. The district court granted Respondent’s motion for summary judgment on the grounds that the statements were not defamatory as a matter of law. As a result of the district court’s ruling, it was unnecessary for the court to address the wholly dependent “interference with business claim.”

Paragraph 4 of Appellant’s statement of the case alleges that “Laurion’s ‘factual recitation’ contained many inaccurate or fabricated facts, including an assertion that the doctor endangered the safety of the patient.” This is a misrepresentation of the record. None of the allegedly defamatory statements under review contain an assertion that Dr. McKee endangered the safety of Respondent’s father. The 11 statements under review relayed what Respondent felt to be Dr. McKee’s rude and insensitive treatment of his father during a difficult time for the Laurion family. Respondent’s complaint to the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice did raise a safety concern, but that complaint is confidential, absolutely privileged, and immune from civil liability under Minn. Stat. § 147.121, subd. I. Further, the phrase “factual recitation” is attributable to Appellant’s counsel, not Respondent, and the record on appeal will establish that the gist and substance of Respondent’s statements were true with reference to Dr. McKee’s own deposition testimony and prior statements.

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 June 30, 2011

“Doctor Plans To Appeal Ruling That Said Complaining About His Bedside Manner Was Not Defamation”

Mike Masnick, TECHDIRT

Trying-Our-Patients-Bedside-Manner

We recently wrote about a court ruling against a doctor who tried to sue someone who wrote some bad reviews about the doctor’s bedside manner online. Thankfully, the court ruled that those reviews were not defamatory. The court noted that the guy posting the material was clearly not happy with Dr. David McKee, but that: “In modern society, there needs to be some give and take, some ability for parties to air their differences…. 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.”

Now, a smart doctor might take that lesson and move forward, and perhaps look into ways to respond reasonably to complaints. Or, there’s Dr. David McKee, who has announced that he has “no choice” but to appeal the ruling. That’s actually wrong. He has plenty of choices. For example, he could not appeal the ruling.

Amusingly, part of the reason that Dr. McKee is apparently filing the appeal is because he claims that the same guy started writing a bunch more critical messages about him online after the ruling came out. However, the guy, Dennis Laurion, insists that he hasn’t posted anything since the lawsuit began, and suggests that perhaps all of those anti-McKee posts came about because of the negative publicity associated with the lawsuit. Specifically, he notes that “there was an influx of Internet chatter about McKee after a link to a story about McKee appeared on the high-traffic website reddit.com.” So what next? Will Dr. McKee try to sue a bunch of Reddit posters too? I’m sure that will go over well.

SEE REMARKS




AUGUST 5, 2011

McKee V. Laurion:  Dr. David McKee Filed Brief With Minnesota Court Of Appeals

In McKee V. Laurion, Dr. David McKee filed a Brief with the Minnesota Court Of Appeals in August 2011.

He argued that the Trial Court erred in granting Defendant Laurion Summary Judgment on grounds that the offensive statements were opinions or otherwise not actionable.

The Trial Court erred in dismissing the Interference With Business Claim. The Trial Court dismissed the Complaint in its entirety but did not specifically address the Interference With Business Claim.

Defamatory diatribes were distributed to third parties as factual recitations to degrade Dr. McKee in the eyes of others.

Laurion’s statements were libelous by the defamation standard.

SEE MORE




SEPTEMBER 5, 2011

“Why Doctors Hate Online Reviews”

Rahul Parikh, MD

Dr. David McKee, a neurologist in Duluth, Minn., didn’t much like an Internet review that called him “a real tool” and suggested he didn’t care about his patients’ comfort. So he filed a defamation suit against the patient’s son who wrote the critical piece, which also alleged McKee wasn’t interested that his dad’s gown was hanging from his neck with his backside exposed.

A judge ultimately dismissed the case, stating that “the court does not find defamatory meaning, but rather a sometimes emotional discussion of the issues.” But it’s not the first time a physician filed a suit against a consumer for a bad Internet review — and probably won’t be the last. A physician’s reputation is all he or she has, and a sour review on the Web can make us very anxious.

Online review sites, of course, are imperfect and open to manipulation. But we all head to Google nevertheless in search of information and advice, whether we’re shopping for a book or a new physician. So how do you know whether the doctor you’re seeing is any good? And how do I know how good a doctor I am?

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SEPTEMBER 9, 2011

No. All-1154

STATE OF MINNESOTA IN COURT OF APPEALS

David McKee, M.D., Appellant

Dennis K. Laurion, Respondent

BRIEF OF RESPONDENT DENNIS K. LAURION

STATEMENT OF THE ISSUES

1. WHETHER THE DISTRICT COURT ERRED BY GRANTING RESPONDENT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT?

Held: The district court held that, whether viewing Respondent’s statements individually or as a whole, the statements did not support a claim of defamation as a matter of Minnesota law.

2. WHETHER THE DISTRICT COURT ERRED BY DISMISSING APPELLANT’S “INTERFERENCE WITH BUSINESS CLAIM,” WHICH WAS WHOLLY DEPENDENT ON APPELLANT’S DEFAMATION CLAIM?

Held: Appellant waived this issue on appeal by failing to properly raise it below. Further, the vaguely pled “interference with business” claim fails to state a claim on which relief can be granted under Minnesota law. Also, the claim is derivative and wholly dependent on proving defamation, which the district court correctly held Appellant could not do. Thus, the district court did not err by dismissing the entirety of Appellant’s claims.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

Respondent Dennis Laurion spoke up for his father when he thought his father was treated with a lack of decency, dignity, and respect by Appellant Dr. David McKee.

Appellant sued him for defamation after threatening that he had the “means and motivation to pursue all available recourse against you.” (Appellant’s Appendix (“AA”) 74.) The district court properly dismissed Appellant’s suit, ruling that, whether read individually or as a whole, none of the statements attributed to Respondent were defamatory as a matter of law. Respondent respectfully requests that this Court affirm the decision of the district court.

STATEMENT OF THE FACTS

Kenneth Laurion, Respondent Dennis Laurion’s father, suffered a stroke on April 17, 2010. (Dennis Laurion Deposition Transcript (“Laurion Depo.”) at 34:12.) He was transferred to St. Luke’s Hospital by ambulance and admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. (Laurion Depo. at 35-36; Respondent’s Appendix (“RA”) at 55.) On April 19, 2010, he was moved to a private room (Laurion Depo. at 37:21-22; RA 55.) Kenneth Laurion’s family, his wife Lois, son Dennis, and daughter-in-law Bonnie-visited him after he was transferred out of ICU. (RA 27, 55.)

Shortly thereafter, Appellant Dr. David McKee arrived to conduct a neurological exam. Appellant had never before met any of the Laurions. (McKee Depo. at   12:10- 13.) None of the Laurions had ever met Appellant. (Laurion Depo. at 44:6-9; RA 56.) The encounter between Appellant and the Laurions lasted no more than 20 minutes. (David McKee Deposition Transcript (“McKee Depo.”) at 20: 16-17.) Respondent was offended by the manner in which Appellant conducted himself toward Kenneth Laurion during the examination. (See, e.g., RA 27 – 29; 52 – 53; 56.)

SEE MORE




September 21, 2011

In Court of Appeals, Reply Brief of Appellant David McKee, MD

Dr. David McKee filed his Reply Brief of Appellant David McKee MD with the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Some arguments include:

As the moving party, Defendant Laurion is not entitled to Summary Judgment as a matter of law.

Laurion’s attempt to conflate the burden of proof is unwarranted.

The truth or falsity of a statement is inherently within the province of the jury.

Laurion’s statements are not “substantially true.”

The statements are harmful to Dr. McKee’s reputation.

Dr. Farb, a disinterested expert, notes that the statements could cause current and prospective patients to “want to avoid [ McKee ] as a doctor because of his supposedly bad attitude and treatment.”

Laurion intended to harm Dr. McKee’s reputation, and he did.

The postings were not “removed” when requested by Dr. McKee.

1

SEE MORE




 OCTOBER 8, 2011

“For What It’s Worth: Doctor Sues Patient”

Leyhane Blogspot

Medical malpractice suits are common (even if they are not as common as some doctors fear). But a suit by a doctor against a patient? That would seem to fit the ancient definition of news. Yet I hadn’t heard of Dr. David McKee’s defamation suit against Dennis Laurion before I received an email about the case.

Actually, Dennis Laurion was not McKee’s patient. Dr. McKee, a neurologist, treated Dennis’s father, Kenneth, a World War II vet, who suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in April 2010. The younger Mr. Laurion was not at all happy with how Dr. McKee treated his father. The elder Mr. Laurion survived, but his son felt that Dr. McKee failed to accord his father appropriate dignity and respect. He didn’t sue for malpractice; instead, he blasted the doctor on a number of ratings sites.

There are ratings services for every business and profession out here on the Internet (including sites that rate lawyers). I haven’t used the Internet to check out a doctor since… let’s see… yesterday. Usually, though, I’m only looking for confirmation of the spelling of the doctor’s name, or to verify an address or phone number. I personally don’t put much stock in so-called “reviews.” On any random site, some reviews will seem as if they’d been written by the doctor’s mother. Others read as if they’d been written by the doctor’s bitter ex-spouse.

Nevertheless (and understandably), doctors are a bit sensitive about how they are portrayed online. See, “Why doctors hate online reviews,” by Dr. Rahul Parikh, in the “Pop Rx” column on Salon.com, September 5, 2011.

There are services that promise to provide some protection to the small businessperson who suffers the slings and arrows of outrageous Internet attacks. Reputation Defender is one product that advertises heavily in this market (and the website seems to pitch at doctors in particular); TheReviewBuster.com is another one I found in a quick search today. Public relations firms would, presumably, be able to offer some assistance to the aggrieved professional in straits similar to those in which Dr. McKee apparently found himself.

But Dr. McKee decided to sue instead.

SEE MORE




October 31, 2001

Respondent’s Motion To Strike Portions Of Appellant’s Reply Brief Is Granted

Judge

1

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NOVEMBER 1, 2011

“Can One Bad Comment Or Online Review Ruin Your Practice?”

The Doctors Company

 Unhappy patients rarely retract derogatory or even defamatory statements made online. Should you fight the commenters?

 Fighting defamation, at least in some cases, might make the situation worse. Even if disgruntled commenters desist, the defamation is in the public domain and will circulate again and again.

Consider the following recent court case: A neurologist in Duluth, Minn., sued a family member of an unhappy patient for defamation because of a negative review written on a third-party website. The media picked up the story, multiplying the negative aspects of the case and presenting additional facts that were not supportive of the physician’s office staff. Ultimately, the case was dismissed by the judge, who declared that “the court does not find defamatory meaning, but rather a sometimes emotional discussion of the issues.”

SEE MORE




NOVEMBER 10, 2011

“Duluth doctor requests jury trial over alleged defamation”

Mark Stodghill, Duluth News Tribune

 A Duluth judge ruled in April that Dr. David McKee was not defamed by the criticism and threw out the doctor’s lawsuit. McKee’s attorney argued Thursday to the Minnesota Court of Appeals that a jury should determine whether his client was defamed.

McKee contends Dennis Laurion of Duluth defamed him by making false statements to the American Academy of Neurology, the American Neurological Association, 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.

“The doctor maintains he was vilified unjustly and inaccurately on the Internet and in postings and correspondence to colleagues and peers and thinks that Mr. Laurion falsified statements and incidents that did not occur,” Minneapolis attorney Marshall Tanick said outside the courtroom after the hearing. “We maintain the case should be submitted to a jury to ensure that Dr. McKee and Mr. Laurion have their day in court so that the jury may determine this important issue.”

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.

A fair amount of argument was devoted to Laurion publishing the comment that Mckee was “a real tool,” something Laurion said was told to him by a nurse. Tanick said he hired a private investigator to find the nurse who allegedly made that comment.

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 NOVEMBER 19, 2011

“Rating, Ranking & Reviewing: Everyone Is A Critic”

Internet Globalization Class

If the Web and online social networks have “democratized” many functions in society, one of them is rating, ranking and reviewing — of everything from consumer products, songs and movies to university professors and doctors. This function of qualitative assessment was formerly exclusive to “professional” critics such as journalists, or in the case of professors and doctors was conducted by professional peers and bureaucratic hierarchies. On the Web, however, everyone can be a critic.

What is is behind this phenomenon? Thanks to the Web, there are no more barriers for anyone who wants to rate, rank or review something or someone. There are now many websites devoted to rating, ranking and reviewing, such as Yelp and Trip Advisor. Other sites such as Amazon feature rating, ranking and reviewing features. Many people now trust these sites more than they do “professional” critics. Indeed, the democratization of rating, ranking and reviewing has had a major impact on the commercial success of products — and even the reputation of professors and doctors.

In another area, patients also rate and review doctors online — and not always to the liking of doctors themselves. Patient criticism can indeed result in controversy, as revealed in this article, A Physician Review Gone Wrong.

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December 1, 2011

“Physician Fights Internet Vendetta by Patient’s Son; Claims that remarks posted to physician rating sites harmed reputation.”

Leigh Page, OUTPATIENT SURGERY MAGAZINE

 Last year, David McKee, MD, a neurologist in Duluth, Minn., walked into the hospital room of an 83-year-old patient who had just been moved out of the ICU after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke. The patient’s family, gathered in the room, was on edge and had never met Dr. McKee before. The neurologist later recalled that he tried to introduce a little levity into the situation by telling the patient he had “to spend time to find out if you were transferred or died,” according to court documents. The patient’s son, Dennis Laurion, recalled Dr. McKee commenting: “44 percent of hemorrhagic strokes die within 30 days. I guess this is the better option.” Dr. McKee denies saying this. Mr. Laurion also accused Dr. McKee of leaving the room scowling, without saying a word to the family, but Dr. McKee insists he did address the family.

The younger Mr. Laurion felt the doctor’s behavior was extremely insensitive to his ailing father. According to Dr. McKee, the son then made more than 100 web postings criticizing the neurologist’s bedside manner and describing the hospital room encounter. Mr. Laurion also wrote that an unnamed woman who had allegedly worked with Dr. McKee called him “a real tool.” Dr. McKee hired a private investigator to track down this woman but failed to do so. He now asserts that Mr. Laurion fabricated the remark, according to the neurologist’s attorney, Marshall H. Tanick.

Dr. McKee attempted to defend himself against Mr. Laurion’s online attack. “This site, and similar sites are an unreliable way of assessing physicians,” he wrote in a statement on the “Vitals” website. “They are easily abused and virtually no surveillance is undertaken by the site to prevent this. … Mr. Laurion’s entries have been dishonest and those of his acquaintances pure fiction. Vitals should not allow anonymous comments and should make it easier for physicians to remove blatantly false or fictional ones.”

Dr. McKee also filed a defamation lawsuit against Mr. Laurion, seeking more than $50,000 in damages. Mr. Tanick says his client “suffered a diminution of referrals and of regard for himself in the community.” But a judge dismissed the lawsuit before it reached trial, finding none of Dr. McKee’s accusations could be considered defamation. For example, the judge said, the description “a real tool” is definitely negative but is too vague to be defamatory. “Taken as a whole, the statements in this case appear to be nothing more or less than one man’s description of shock at the way he and in particular his father were treated by his physician,” the judge concluded.

Dr. McKee has appealed the dismissal. A day before the hearing, Mr. Tanick and Mr. Laurion’s attorney, John D. Kelly, spoke to OUTPATIENT SURGERY MAGAZINE. In light of the negative publicity stirred up by the lawsuit, Mr. Tanick said, it is preferable to quietly settle such cases, but Mr. Laurion refused to accept a settlement offer.

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December 12, 2011

“Physicians face barriers when fighting derogatory comments posted on the Internet, but some legal strategies can curb the problem”

Alicia Gallegos, AMedNews

“Horrible results!”

“The doctor misdiagnosed the case.”

“It was a failed surgery.”

When unhappy patients post these kinds of comments about physicians online, doctors’ reputations — and their practices — can suffer.

Reviews by patients have become common as blogs and review websites proliferate on the Internet. But doctors are seeking legal remedies to battle alleged online libel and defamation.

On Nov. 10, the Minnesota Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case of a neurologist suing a former patient’s family for alleged defamation. David McKee, MD, alleges that a family member made derogatory and untrue posts about his treatment of the man’s father. A ruling is expected by January 2012.

From 2009 to 2011, Chicago plastic surgeon Jay Pensler, MD, sued three patients and an attorney for alleged defamation stemming from comments left on review websites and for statements made to a TV station. One of the cases was settled, and three are ongoing, said an attorney involved in the litigation.

Taking legal action against Internet posters is not always ideal, legal experts say. However, doctors who do so should be aware of how best to navigate the judicial process.

Before suing, experts say doctors should consider all legal strategies that may help remove comments from a website. Knowing the right legal step to take — and when to take it — could be the difference between a quick remedy and a years-long ordeal.

In Dr. McKee’s case, a trial court ruled that the comments posted by Dennis Laurion, the son of one of Dr. McKee’s former patients, were not defamation but rather an “emotional discussion of the issues.” Dr. McKee appealed. He accused Laurion of writing untrue posts about his interaction with Laurion’s family, including a charge that the doctor did not treat his father with dignity after a stroke.

Laurion’s assertions go beyond opinion, said Marshall H. Tanick, Dr. McKee’s attorney. “He felt he was viciously defamed by the son of a patient. He sued to vindicate his reputation,” Tanick said. “We maintain these statements cross the line. [They are] demonstrably false.”

Laurion’s attorney, John D. Kelly, said some of Laurion’s statements were true and the rest were vague or obvious opinions. For example, Laurion wrote that Dr. McKee was “scowling” during his interaction with Laurion’s family, Kelly said. Statements about a person’s expression or demeanor are open to interpretation and cannot be considered defamatory, he said. If doctors aren’t sure if an online comment is defamatory, seeking legal guidance can help, Schaefer said.

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