Texas Medicine: Physicians Can Help Shape Their Presence On Influential Online Rating Sites

Physicians Can Help Shape Their Presence On Influential Online Rating Sites 

Joey Berlin, Associate Editor, Texas Medicine 

March 2017 

Volume 113, Number 3, Pages 33-40 

Chances are, by now, most physicians know online review sites allow patients to post a review of their doctor visit the same way they might review their car mechanic or a local restaurant.

Maybe you think review repositories like Yelp or medicine-specific review sites like Health Grades are mainly places for crabby customers or patients to complain. With that perception in mind, perhaps you think the minuses of setting up a profile on a review site outweigh the pluses, and you don’t even want to get involved in the online review racket. Or maybe you’re undecided about whether to do so.

That’s too bad because, in effect, the internet already has decided for you. You already have an online presence, and you can decide to shape it, says Nashua, N.H., internal medicine physician Kevin Pho, MD, an author and blogger who focuses on social media in health care. And, in fact, research has shown patients don’t just use online reviews to air grievances. “What these sites will do is create profile pages of every single doctor, whether these doctors want one or not,” said Dr. Pho, the founder of the health blog KevinMD.com and a scheduled speaker at TexMed 2017 May 5–9 in Houston.

A February 2014 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) article reported 35 percent of prospective patients who sought online reviews chose a physician based on good reviews from a ratings site, and about the same percentage took negative reviews as a cue to look elsewhere for their care.

If physicians aren’t aware that those profiles of them are already out there, Dr. Pho adds, “that’s going to be the first impression of them online. When patients Google their doctors’ names, there’s a possibility that these rating sites may come up first, and that will form these patients’ first impressions of the doctor. That’s why it’s imperative that they be proactive.”

Being reactive is important, too. But when physicians and practices react to something they see online ― say, a viciously critical review ― they also must be careful to react in the right way. 

Owning Your Presence And Learning The Sites

Dr. Pho and medical content strategist Susan Gay coauthored the 2013 book Establishing, Managing, and Protecting Your Online Reputation: A Social Media Guide for Physicians and Medical Practices. The book notes most review sites pull information on medical practices from commercially available databases, so those practices already will be listed on the sites without any effort from the physician to establish a presence on them.

The review sites generally operate in a similar fashion, Dr. Pho notes. Most of them allow physicians and practices to “claim” their profiles, which allows them to personalize those profiles with photos, a description of the practice, credentials, and other information. Doing so is an important piece of taking command of an online presence, Dr. Pho says.

Kyle Bickling, practice manager for Eye Institute of Austin, says the ophthalmology practice tries to give review site searchers a snapshot of the services it offers. Eye Institute’s page on Zocdoc, for example, has a practice summary, list of specialties, its in-network insurance plans, and pictures and credentials for physicians. “We want to make sure that patients know and can easily find out what sort of a practice we are, where we are, what sort of broad-picture services we offer,” Mr. Bickling said.

Although the review sites operate similarly ― usually allowing a user to leave a practice a star rating, as well as a comment ― learning some of the nuances of each can prove valuable. The directory and review site Vitals, for example, allows a profile owner to hide two negative reviews, a useful tool to negate a patient whose criticism crosses the line. The site Health Grades has a similar option available to hide reviews, says Texas Medical Association practice consultant Brad Davis. “Some of them have a do-it-yourself vault where you can put X number of items in there, whereas some of them have an appeals process for reviews, so you want to know how those sites work so you can deal with each accordingly,” he said.

Other popular medicine-specific rating sites include http://www.ratemds.com, http://www.healthcarereviews.com, and http://www.drscore.com.

If you’d rather a prospective patient’s first impression of your practice not come from review sites, you can take steps to minimize that from occurring. While search engine optimization (SEO) professionals hinge their reputations on favorably portraying a client or employer on Google, physicians and practices can potentially do some leveraging of Google on their own without any SEO expertise. The easiest way, Dr. Pho says, is to generate online content about yourself and your practice. (See “Reaching Patients Across the Web,” December 2015 Texas Medicine, pages 33–38.) He says a great way for physicians to get started is simply to establish a profile on either the general professional social networking site LinkedIn, http://www.linkedin.com, or the health care professional network Doximity. Great SEO-shaping potential also comes from generating content on Twitter, Facebook, or a blog, he says. “It depends on how big you want your digital footprint to be; obviously, the bigger, the better, so the more social media platforms that a doctor engages in, the bigger their online presence will be,” Dr. Pho said. “And not only will that expand their digital footprint, it’s going to push down the visibility of third-party rating sites.”

TMA recommends physicians set up Google Alerts to be notified when their name or their practice’s name is mentioned online. For more tips on managing your online presence, check out Get Social: Put Your Practice on the Social Media Map, a TMA book offering a road map for physicians looking to begin or to improve their social media experience.

TMA Practice Consulting can also help your practice make its mark online with its new Online Visibility Assessment. (See “Online Visibility.”) In July, TMA will host a modern marketing seminar that shows physicians how to properly leverage their online presence, refresh their current marketing strategy, and more. (See “TMA Modern Marketing Seminar.”) And for website and internet marketing assistance, Officite, a TMA-endorsed vendor, can help. (See “Marketing Help From Officite.”)

Reacting The Right Way

Dr. Pho offers five tips to handle online reviews:

  1. Listen to or read the review,
  2. Take the conversation offline,
  3. Read the fine print on a review site,
  4. Ask more patients to rate you online, and
  5. Don’t sue over a negative review.

Seeing what patients say can provide valuable insight into not just what they think of you but also what they think of the entire experience.”If you look at negative reviews, it’s not necessarily the doctor himself or herself,” Dr. Pho said. “It could be the support staff. It could be the nurse. It could be the medical assistant. It could be the fact that there’s not enough parking. It could be the fact that the magazines in the waiting room aren’t up to date. And it’s important for physicians to be aware of problems in a practice that they may not have been aware of previously.”

Eye Institute of Austin always tries to reach out to any patient who posts a negative review, Mr. Bickling says. “The more positive reviews we have, the shout-outs from patients about specific individuals or specific functions of our practice, it’s always great affirmation and a way for us to see that, hey, we’re doing the right things. And typically, if it’s a negative review, it may just be something where we missed the mark service-wise. It could be something as simple as we had a really long wait time one day.”

Taking the conversation offline has another implicit meaning: Don’t respond online to the treatment-related specifics of a negative review. If the physician can identify the patient who posted a scathing review, he or she can reach out privately to the patient to address and, if necessary, rectify the problem the patient had. That’s preferable to getting into a damaging, public back-and-forth that could also introduce potential patient confidentiality violations.

A ProPublica/Washington Post story last May detailed instances in which health care practices fought back against online reviews and appeared to violate HIPAA in doing so. Marisa Speed, the mother of a 3-year-old, posted a review of Phoenix’s North Valley Plastic Surgery several years ago after her son received stitches for a gash on his chin. Ms. Speed wrote that the physician “seemed flustered with my crying child” halfway through the procedure, then “ended up throwing the instruments on the floor. I understand that dealing with kids requires extra effort, but if you don’t like to do it, don’t even welcome them.”

An employee for North Valley responded online: “This patient presented in an agitated and uncontrollable state. Despite our best efforts, this patient was screaming, crying, inconsolable, and a danger to both himself and to our staff. As any parent that has raised a young boy knows, they have the strength to cause harm.”

That response prompted Ms. Speed to complain to the U.S. Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The office declined to undertake a formal investigation but sent North Valley’s privacy officer a letter asking the practice to examine the situation and ensure compliance. OCR told the practice it “may wish to remove any specific information about current or former patients from your web-blog.” OCR told Ms. Speed if North Valley “fails or refuses to take steps to address this concern,” it may need to contact her as part of a formal investigation.

Writing a quick online response to a positive review is good practice, the Online Reputation book says, but to stay HIPAA-compliant, ask patients for their permission to respond before posting.

The book says physicians can respond generally to negative reviews in a public forum without violating patient privacy laws if they’re responding to complaints about aspects of the visit, such as wait times or inadequate parking. Physicians can explain those aspects without confirming or denying that the reviewer was a patient. Also, if a physician reaches out to the patient and gets written consent, the practice can post a public response or apology, showing readers of the site that he or she is listening to patients.

Dr. Pho’s third tip, reading the fine print, essentially means knowing what the review site’s policies are so you’ll know what your options are if a disgruntled patient does something out of bounds, such as posting multiple negative reviews. As Get Social notes, some sites will allow the subject of a profile to flag reviews as inappropriate and will consider removing such reviews. “You want to report any comments that you think are suspicious because whenever patients post multiple times, that goes against the terms of service agreements for these sites,” and that can lead to the site removing the review, Dr. Pho said.

However, Mr. Davis cautions you to “pick your battles” when it comes to appealing a review. “If it’s not a good review, but it’s a legitimate concern and something that happened, I would say you have to let it go at some point,” he said. “If you start to appeal too many of them, I think you’re going to red-flag yourself. Yelp might start thinking that you’re just appealing every bad review, that there’s no validity now to what you’re saying.”

Dr. Pho says multiple studies have shown the majority of online reviews are actually positive. That’s why physicians should encourage all their patients to write one, instead of dreading it, he says. Get Social notes a 2012 report in the Journal of Medical Internet Research that found nearly half of all physicians get perfect online ratings, and Yelp reported in late 2013 that two-thirds of all reviews on its site were four- and five-star ratings. “If you ask all your patients to rate you online, chances are those reviews in aggregate will be positive and can make negative reviews more like outliers,” Dr. Pho said.

The fifth tip stresses that a physician pursuing a lawsuit over negative ratings is a high-risk, costly, and ill-advised move. Establishing, Managing, and Protecting Your Online Reputation highlights the case of Minnesota neurologist David McKee, MD, who sued over negative online comments the son of a stroke patient posted in 2009. Dr. McKee sued for defamation, claiming the poster also made false statements to the American Academy of Neurology and the American Neurological Association. A four-year legal battle concluded with the Minnesota Supreme Court dismissing the case in January 2013.

The book said Dr. McKee’s case created a media firestorm and became an example of the Streisand effect, a term for an attempt to suppress a piece of online information that actually results in the information garnering more publicity. The term derives from a Barbra Streisand lawsuit against an organization that published an aerial photo of the singer’s house.

“Whenever McKee’s name is put into a search engine, the publicity generated by his lawsuit will be featured prominently in the search results,” Dr. Pho and Ms. Gay wrote. “By suing the patient, not only is the outcome of the suit in doubt, but he actually made the situation much worse. No matter what kind of merit you think a case might have, doctors who sue patients for online ratings are going to lose in the more influential court of public opinion. Better that doctors take some slanderous lumps online, and instead, encourage more of their patients to rate them.”

What about preparing for litigation from the other side? If an online review hints that the patient is considering legal action, the Texas Medical Liability Trust recommends physicians contact their attorney and their medical liability insurance company immediately..

Encouraging Reviews

Get Social advises physicians to simply Google their own names and find out which rating sites show up at the top of the first page of that search. The physician can then consider passing out a handout or poster asking satisfied patients to post a review on one of those top sites. “All of that will leave you with a healthy balance of positive to negative online ratings,” Get Social states. “Prospective patients surfing for information about you will encounter a much more complete picture of you and your practice.”

There are still plenty of patients out there who don’t trust online reviews. The February 2014 JAMA study found that of patients who hadn’t sought physician rating sites, 43 percent said it was because of a lack of trust in the information they provide. But 59 percent of respondents said physician rating sites were “somewhat important or very important,” so being mindful of what the reviews say makes sense.

Mr. Bickling says the best way to generate good online reviews is to focus on the entire patient experience and make sure everyone in the office is working toward that goal. “You could have amazing doctors across the board who provided a phenomenal visit for every single patient every single time, 100 percent of the time,” he said. “And if that patient has a negative experience with your check-in desk or your checkout folks or your billing department or your optical department, whoever it may be, any sort of negative experience anywhere can ruin an entire visit for that patient. That’s why it’s so important to have the entire practice on board with that.”

Joey Berlin can be reached by phone at (800) 880-1300, ext. 1393, or (512) 370-1393; by fax at (512) 370-1629; or by email.

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

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion References And Precedents

Crookston Times: Doctor’s Defamation Lawsuit Heads To Jury

Doctor’s Defamation Lawsuit Heads To Jury 

Crookston Times 

January 25, 2012

Laurion posted derogatory comments about McKee’s bedside manner.

A Minnesota appeals court says a jury should decide whether a Duluth man defamed a local doctor by posting derogatory comments about his bedside manner on rate-your-doctor websites.

The appeals court Monday sent the case back to St. Louis County for trial. A district court judge had earlier ruled Dr. David McKee was not defamed by the criticism and threw out his lawsuit against Dennis Laurion. McKee wants $50,000 in damages from Laurion for posting the statements on the Internet. Judge Eric Hylden said Laurion’s comments were opinions and constituted statements that were too vague to be defamatory.

The Duluth News Tribune says Laurion was critical of the treatment his father, Kenneth, received from McKee after suffering a stroke and spending four days at St. Luke’s hospital last year.

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

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion References And Precedents

 

 

 

HEALTHCARE Business & Technology E-Newsletter: More Doctors Sue Over Bad Online Reviews

More Doctors Sue Over Bad Online Reviews 

Sam Narisi 

HEALTHCARE Business & Technology E-Newsletter 

April 2, 2013

As more people turn to the web to help them make decisions about their healthcare, more potential patients will check out online reviews about doctors. And many physicians will do everything they can to protect their reputations on the web.

In some cases, that includes taking a patient to court because of negative online reviews.

Dr. David McKee of Minnesota recently lost a court battle in which he sued a patient’s son who had written negative comments about McKee on several doctor rating websites. The negative reviews were related to comments McKee had made to the patient and his family. Though McKee claimed the online reviews hurt his reputation and his business, the court threw out the case on the grounds that the comments were true and therefore not defamatory. 

McKee isn’t the only doctor who’s gone to court recently because of negative online reviews. According to the Digital Media Project at Harvard University, there have been at least seven court cases over the past five years or so related to online reviews of doctors. Those lawsuits show how difficult it is for doctors to win. In all of those cases, patients either agreed to take down their comments to avoid a suit, or the court threw out the case.

In one of the incidents, a neurosurgery patient posted several negative comments about a surgeon online, including insinuations that the doctor was responsible for creating an unusually high risk of death for patients. But when the surgeon sued, the court threw out the case on the grounds that the patient was engaging in free speech about a public issue. The doctor was ordered to pay $50,000 in legal fees.

Most experts warn doctors against taking legal action because of negative online reviews. In addition to the potential for losing a costly legal battle, they warn that in many cases, filing a suit only brings attention to the patient’s complaints.

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

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion References And Precedents

 

 

 

Pioneer Press: Duluth Neurologist Sues Son Of A Former Patient

Duluth Neurologist Sues Son Of A Former Patient 

Pioneer Press 

June 12, 2010 

DULUTH, Minnesota — A Duluth neurologist is suing the son of a former stroke patient for publicly criticizing him.

Dr. David McKee, with Northland Neurology and Myology, wants more than $50,000 in damages from Dennis Laurion of Duluth in a lawsuit made public Friday.

McKee alleges that Laurion defamed him and interfered with his business by making false statements to third parties, including the American Academy of Neurology and the American Neurological Association.

Laurion’s 85-year-old father, Kenneth Laurion, suffered a hemorrhagic stroke and spent four days hospitalized in April.

Among the allegations, McKee says Dennis Laurion lied when he claimed McKee blamed the patient for the loss of his time. Laurion tells the Duluth News Tribune that his statements were true and he is immune from liability.

 

Plaintiff David McKee MD

 

Defendant Dennis Laurion

 

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

KTAR Newsroom: Minnesota High Court Say Online Post Legally Protected

Minnesota High Court Say Online Post Legally Protected 

KTAR Newsroom

January 30, 2013

A man’s online post calling a doctor “a real tool” is protected speech, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled.

The state’s highest court dismissed a case by Duluth neurologist David McKee, who took offense when a patient’s son posted critical remarks about him on rate-your-doctor websites. Those remarks included a claim that a nurse called the doctor “a real tool,” slang for stupid or foolish.

The decision reversed a Minnesota Court of Appeals decision that would have let the doctor’s lawsuit proceed to trial.

The opinion, written by Justice Alan Page, said the comments posted by Dennis Laurion don’t add up to defamation because they’re opinions that are entitled to free speech protections.

“Referring to someone as `a real tool’ falls into the category of pure opinion because the term `real tool’ cannot be reasonably interpreted as stating a fact and it cannot be proven true or false. … We conclude that it is an opinion amounting to `mere vituperation and abuse’ or `rhetorical hyperbole’ that cannot be the basis for a defamation action,” the justices said.

The ruling also said it doesn’t matter whether the unnamed nurse actually exists. McKee’s attorney argued that Laurion might have fabricated the nurse, something Laurion’s attorney denied. And it said the doctor’s objections to Laurion’s other comments also failed the required legal tests.

The case highlighted the tension that sometimes develops on ratings sites, such as Yelp and Angie’s List, when the free speech rights of patients clash with the rights of doctors, lawyers and other professionals to protect their good names.

Experts say lawsuits over negative professional reviews are relatively uncommon and rarely succeed, partly because the law favors freedom of speech.

This dispute was over how McKee treated Laurion’s father, who had suffered a stroke, during a single hospital visit in 2010 that lasted 10 to 15 minutes. Laurion expressed his dismay in several online posts with what he considered the doctor’s insensitive manner.

“I’m sure he and his family are very happy with this result,” Laurion’s attorney, John Kelly, said. “It’s been a long and difficult process for them.”

McKee’s lawyer, Marshall Tanick, said he and McKee plan no further appeals and that they were disappointed with the ruling. “We feel it gives individuals undue license to make disparaging and derogatory statements about these people, particularly doctors and other licensed professionals, on the Internet without much recourse,” Tanick said.

While the decision is not binding in other states, Kelly and Tanick agreed that it might influence how other courts would rule on similar questions. Kelly said lawyers often look at rulings from other jurisdictions when they put cases together, sometimes for leads or guidance.

“Certainly this is a cutting edge issue and I’m sure lawyers and courts in other jurisdictions will pay attention to this decision and give it the weight it deserves,” Tanick said.

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

Fierce Healthcare: Online Patient Reviews Are Protected Speech

Court: Online Patient Reviews Are Protected Speech

By Alicia Caramenico

January 31, 2013

Fierce Healthcare

Amid doctors’ wariness about online review sites, the Minnesota Supreme Court yesterday ruled that an online patient review was not defamatory.

The decision ends a four-year legal battle that stemmed from a defamation lawsuit by neurologist David McKee. Following the hospitalization of Dennis Laurion’s father at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, Laurion wrote reviews on several sites, with one claiming a nurse called the doctor “a real tool.”

The high court dismissed the defamation lawsuit and reversed an Appeals Court ruling that the statements harmed McKee’s reputation and could be proven as false. Moreover, according to the state Supreme Court, it doesn’t matter if the unnamed nurse really exists.

“Referring to someone as ‘a real tool’ falls into the category of pure opinion because the term ‘real tool’ cannot be reasonably interpreted as stating a fact, and it cannot be proven true or false,” the opinion states.

The situation also highlights that defamation lawsuits are not without cost–to the providers and the patients involved.

McKee has spent at least $50,000 in legal fees, as well as $11,000 to clear his reputation after the incident prompted hundreds of negative online reviews. For Laurion, litigation costs have totaled more than two years’ income.

“The financial costs are significant, but money is money, and five years from now, I won’t notice the money I spent on this,” McKee said. “It’s been the harm to my reputation through the repeated publicity and the stress.”

Providers can take several steps to control their online reputation, such as training staff to impress and keeping listings up to date and accurate. To avoid defamation lawsuits, experts recommend providers first try to resolve the patient’s complaint, if a name is provided, and encourage them to remove or amend their review.

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

Newsbriefs – PIAA: Minnesota High Court Rules Online Patient Reviews Are Protected Speech

Minnesota High Court Rules Online Patient Reviews Are Protected Speech

Newsbriefs – PIAA

February 1, 2013

Amid doctors’ wariness about online review sites, the Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that an online patient review was not defamatory. The decision ends a four-year legal battle that stemmed from a defamation lawsuit by neurologist David McKee. Following the hospitalization of Dennis Laurion’s father at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota, Laurion wrote reviews on several sites, with one claiming a nurse called the doctor “a real tool.” The high court dismissed the defamation lawsuit and reversed an Appeals Court ruling that the statements harmed McKee’s reputation and could be proven as false. Moreover, according to the state Supreme Court, it doesn’t matter if the unnamed nurse really exists. “Referring to someone as ‘a real tool’ falls into the category of pure opinion because the term ‘real tool’ cannot be reasonably interpreted as stating a fact, and it cannot be proven true or false,” the opinion states. The situation also highlights that defamation lawsuits are not without cost—to the providers and the patients involved. McKee has spent at least $50,000 in legal fees, as well as $11,000 to clear his reputation after the incident prompted hundreds of negative online reviews.

PIAA is the insurance trade association representing domestic and international medical professional liability (MPL) insurance companies, risk retention groups, captives, trusts, and other entities.

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

Negative Online Reviews of Psychiatrists

Internet Sabotage: Negative Online Reviews of Psychiatrists

December 8, 2016

Laura Kendall, MD; Timothy Botello, MD, MPH

Psychiatric Annals, December 2016, Volume 46, Issue 12

Online reviews have become an increasingly popular method for rating virtually any business or service. However, there are problems when it comes to rating physicians online, especially psychiatrists, because the doctor–patient relationship is not parallel to the business–consumer relationship. The psychiatrist–patient relationship is even more unique, especially when the patient is receiving involuntary care. Physicians have a fiduciary duty to their patients to uphold certain ethical principles. In fact, a patient’s demands may sometimes conflict with these values, which can be a cause of an unhappy experience.

Like many other businesses and professions, medicine is becoming increasingly consumer-driven, and online reviews are a natural evolution of this trajectory. Some positive features of online reviews include increased patient autonomy, more feedback for doctors, and improved standards of care. However, many physicians fear that such websites encourage negative reviews or even extortion. There is also an inherent conflict of interest with regard to website traffic, because more sensational reviews lead to heavier web traffic; thus, there is little incentive for websites to remove negative reviews.

Many times, the criteria used for rating the physician include nonmedical factors (office staff or wait times). Rating sites can also be manipulated, as many do not require authentication of the user as the actual patient. An unscrupulous competitor could even write and post a negative review, making these websites completely untrustworthy.

Although there is no consequence for the website or patient for posting an untrue or negative review, the consequences for the physician are numerous. It is disturbing to learn there is false, negative information on the Internet about one’s professional self, some of which may even attack the physician’s character and could be considered defamation or harassment. There are also financial consequences, as insurance companies and potential employers are now looking at these sites.

Patient satisfaction scores are now a focus in health care and are used as an indicator of a physician’s performance and sometimes even used to determine hospital funding. Data are collected despite the fact that high patient-satisfaction scores have been correlated with higher odds of inpatient admission, greater expenditures, and higher mortality. Because of this, physicians have reported increased job dissatisfaction, job attrition, pressure to inappropriately prescribe antibiotics or narcotics, and pressure to order unnecessary tests or admissions due to concerns that they need to generate high patient-satisfaction scores. Physicians are now sometimes more selective when accepting patients, avoiding high-risk patients to improve their ratings. One could postulate that the same is true for physician ratings online, as the need to generate higher scores may threaten a physician’s clinical integrity. Such practices could even potentially harm patients and lead to irresponsible management of health care resources.

In psychiatry, the situation becomes increasingly complex. For psychiatrists who work in a private practice setting, there is a certain level of expectation by the patient for payment of service. Yet, just as in any other field of medicine, it can often be counter-therapeutic to give in to the demands of patients. Sometimes, it is a psychiatrist’s duty to set limits. This is particularly true in the treatment of patients with borderline personality disorder. In such patients, their internal emotional experience is chaotic, vacillating between extreme emotions of idealizing and devaluing, often leading to explosive reactions and unstable relationships. For these patients, such limit-setting could be fuel for the fire that leads them to write negative reviews online.

Many psychiatrists work on inpatient units, at state hospitals, or at correctional facilities, all situations in which the patient is on some sort of legal (often involuntary) hold. Such patients have met a legal commitment criteria reviewed by a civil court. Common among such patients are psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or psychosis in the setting of a mood disorder. Psychotic patients often experience paranoid or grandiose delusions centered on their treating psychiatrist. Making matters worse, psychiatrists often must petition the court to medicate patients with psychiatric medications against their will when patients refuse psychiatric medications. Such interactions can sometimes lead to a contentious doctor – patient relationship. Although psychiatrists are not above being rated, it can be argued that it is not prudent for people who are acutely psychotic to write online reviews of their doctors. A clinical context might be helpful for the reader to understand the basis for the review, but such contexts are not provided by these websites.

Physicians should be held accountable to practicing and upholding good standards of care, but we maintain that there are more constructive ways of providing feedback. Posting a negative, emotionally charged review may not lead to a change in practice. Instead, submitting formal complaint forms to the hospital, which are reviewed by administrators and supervisors, can lead to feedback provided in a constructive way, which may positively affect practice. Another option would be contacting the state medical board or joint commission for investigation of complaints by patients. In fact, evidence shows that feedback is most effective when provided over a period of time by an authoritative source.

We recommend that physicians educate themselves about online reviews and learn what can be done when an untrue or negative review is posted. All physicians should conduct Internet searches on themselves quarterly. If a physician discovers a negative review, it may be prudent to notify one’s malpractice carrier to alert them of any potential legal action to be initiated by a patient or family member against the physician. It is sometimes possible to have the review removed by contacting the website directly; this may be successful if the review violates the website’s terms of service. It is recommended to take screenshots of the original date and time of the review as well as after the review is removed for your records. Such copies will have a digital timestamp, which will be necessary if any litigation ensues. Also, if a similar situation happens in the future, the physician has documented proof of the prior review and evidence that it was removed.

If the website refuses to remove an untrue or unfair review, a physician could write a response to the review, but there could be potential Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) violations. It may be impossible to prove who actually wrote the review in the first place, and responding could inadvertently reveal protected information about another patient’s encounter. Therefore, it is advised to keep the responses general and nonspecific. It may also be advisable to contact one’s malpractice carrier before responding to make sure that no HIPAA violations will be made.

Alternatively, legal action could be pursued by the physician if the online reviews are deemed defamatory; however, such cases are difficult to prove in court and often end up just creating more problems. ( *** ) Even if the physician is victorious, the case may later be referred to repeatedly in articles and legal journals, potentially making the negative review permanent.

As a psychiatrist, it is desirable to cultivate a positive online image. It can be beneficial to maintain a personal website and include positive testimonials from patients, especially in private practice. Currently, there are a few services available that help with a physician’s online image or negative reviews.

Lastly, medical professional societies should lobby to protect physicians from false or negative online reviews and create legislation to hold these websites more accountable for their content. Perhaps such legislation could mandate that reviews not be anonymous, or perhaps patients should have to show proof of appointment to post a review. This could help ensure that only patients are writing reviews of their physicians. Also, websites could require that a minimum number of reviews (positive, negative, or both) be reached before they are released to the public, so as to have a more representative sampling. Reviews could also be more carefully moderated, as is the case with Britain’s National Health Choices website.

Physician rating websites are an inevitable part of life that physicians will continue to face in their careers. In the current system, the negative consequences that result from these websites appear to outnumber the positive qualities. Such websites may be especially problematic in psychiatry, especially in the field of involuntary psychiatry. In such cases, a more formal complaint system is likely to be more effective than anonymous reviews posted on the Internet. We advocate for physicians to have more awareness and education about these websites, and to know that there are options they may pursue if negative reviews are discovered. Finally, medical professional societies may be able to advocate for physicians and even possibly change the way reviews are handled on the Internet.

Source

( *** ) David McKee MD V. Dennis K. Laurion

Minnesota Court Of Appeals Cites McKee V. Laurion In Reversal And Remand of Harpel V. Thurn

 STATE OF MINNESOTA IN COURT OF APPEALS

A14-0680 (Minn. Ct. App. Nov. 24, 2014)

Harpel v. Thurn 

Reversed and remanded

Schellhas, Judge

McLeod County District Court

File No. 43-CV-13-1456

Considered and decided by Stauber, Presiding Judge; Schellhas, Judge; and Crippen, Judge.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION 

SCHELLHAS, Judge 

Appellant challenges the dismissal of his defamation complaint under Minn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(e) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Because the complaint does not demonstrate that appellant is an all-purpose public figure, and because appellant sufficiently pleaded actual malice in the complaint, we reverse and remand.

FACTS

This appeal arises from the dismissal of appellant Eric Harpel’s defamation lawsuit against respondents Marie Thurn and Scott Nokes. Harpel is the chairman of the McLeod County Republican Party. Thurn previously served as the vice-chair of the McLeod County Republican Party, and Nokes is an attorney who represented Thurn.

Harpel alleged in his complaint that Thurn and Nokes falsely accused him of threatening Thurn and her husband, causing them concern for their personal safety. Harpel alleged that City Pages published the “false and defamatory statements” about him and that Thurn and Nokes “failed to exercise reasonable care” in making the statements, made the statements with “full knowledge” of their falsity and with “reckless disregard of the truth or falsity of the statements,” and published the statements “with a deliberate disregard for the rights of [Harpel].”

Thurn and Nokes moved to dismiss the complaint under Minn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(e) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. They maintained that Harpel is an all-purpose public figure and therefore must prove actual malice by Thurn and Nokes to prevail in the lawsuit. Thurn and Nokes argued that the complaint fails to plead facts to support a finding of actual malice. Following a hearing, the district court determined that Harpel is an all-purpose public figure because he “voluntarily assumed the role of local prominence in shaping and conducting the political affairs of society” and “is a local celebrity and prominent social figure who has general fame and notoriety in the community.” The court further held that the complaint does not plead facts necessary to establish actual malice because the complaint’s paragraphs addressing the element of malice include only legal conclusions and no “[c]oncrete facts establishing [Thurn’s and Noke’s] first-hand knowledge of falsity . . . or a reckless disregard for the truth.” The court granted the motion and dismissed the complaint with prejudice.

DECISION

To establish defamation, a plaintiff must prove that a defamatory statement was communicated to someone other than the plaintiff, that the statement is false, that the statement tends to harm the plaintiff’s reputation and to lower the plaintiff in the estimation of the community, and that the recipient of the statement reasonably understood the statement to refer to a specific individual. McKee v. Laurion, 825 N.W.2d 725, 729-30 (Minn. 2013). When the plaintiff is a public figure, he or she must also prove that the statement was made with actual malice.

. . .

Source Document

David McKee MD V. Dennis K. Laurion

Fundamentals of Business Law Today: McKee V Laurion

Cengage Advantage Books:

Fundamentals of Business Law Today: Summarized Cases

By Roger Leroy Miller

Page 75

Case 4.1 McKee V. Laurion, Supreme Court of Minnesota, 825 N. W. 2nd 725, 2013

FACTS: Kenneth Laurion was admitted to St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota, after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke. Two days later, he was transferred from the intensive care unit (ICU) of St. Luke’s to a private room. The attending physician arranged for Dr. David McKee, a neurologist, to examine him. Kenneth’s son, Dennis, and other Laurion family members were present during the examination. After Kenneth was discharged from the hospital, Dennis posted the following statements on websites for rating physicians.

[ Dr. McKee ] seemed upset that my father had been moved [ into a private room. ] Never having met my father or his family, Doctor McKee said, “When you weren’t in ICU, I had to spend time finding out if you transferred or died.” When we gaped at him, he said, “Well, 44% of hemorrhagic strokes die within 30 days. I guess this is the better option.” . . . When my father said his gown was just hanging from his neck without a back, Dr. McKee said, “That doesn’t matter.” My wife said, “It matters to us; let us go into the hall.”

After learning of the online posts, Dr. McKee filed a suit in a Minnesota state court against Dennis, asserting defamation. The court issued a summary judgment in Dennis’ favor. A state intermediate appellate court reversed this judgment.

ISSUE: Were the statements that Dennis posted online about Dr. McKee defamatory?

DECISION: No. The Minnesota Supreme Court concluded that the lower court properly granted summary judgment in favor of Dennis and reversed the decision of the state intermediate appellate court.

REASON:  The state’s highest court pointed out that truth is a complete defense to a defamation action and that true statements, however disparaging, are not actionable. “If the statement is true in substance, minor inaccuracies of expression or detail are immaterial. Minor inaccuracies do not amount to falsities so long as the substance, the gist, the sting of the libelous charge is justified.” Dr. McKee acknowledged in his deposition that when he examined Dennis’ father, Kenneth, he did communicate to those present that some intensive-care-unit patients die, although he denied referencing  a specific percentage.

The court believed that even without an exact percentage in his statement, Dr. McKee’s statement satisfied the test “for substantial truth because it would have the same effect on the reader regardless of whether a specific percentage is referenced [ or whether the percentage is accurate ].” Thus Dennis’ online statements were not actionable as defamation because there was no genuine question as to the falsity of the statements – they were substantially true.

SOURCE

PURCHASE

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