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Can’t Stop This Train: Avvo Adds Doctor Reviews

by Carolyn Elefant on November 1, 2010 · 10 comments

in Ethics & Malpractice Issues, Websites and Blogs

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Today, Avvo, a  lawyer-rating service introduced a new rating service for doctors. Though Avvo isn’t first to market with doctor review sites — more than a year ago, there were already several other players in the field — Avvo’s entrance shows one thing: whether we professionals like it or not, consumer ratings services are here to stay. Indeed, that’s an observation that Niki Black and I noted in this section of our book, Social Media for Lawyers , where we explained that a robust social media presence could serve as an antidote to negative reviews.

Like many lawyers, doctors aren’t necessarily embracing consumer reviews.  Some doctors have gone so far as to demand that patients sign waivers agreeing not to post online comments. Others, however, such as Dr. Kevin Pho, a primary care physician and USA Today contributor, argues that doctors should encourage patients to leave online reviews, since more data are needed to make the ratings useful. Pho points out a fact that lawyers should take to heart: almost 90 percent of online patient reviews were positive. But Pho also contends that online services should not allow anonymous reviews since accountability allows doctors to use the feedback to improve their practice. (As an aside, in my view, anonymity is a red herring, since anyone can post a negative screed about a provider online; they don’t need ratings sites to do it. Moreover, I’m confident that the market will sort out any anonymity issues; in other words, a site that contains too many crazy ramblings of anonymous reviewers will eventually lose credibility with users. So review sites will have no choice but to deal with the anonymity issues at some point to maintain quality).

To its credit, the ABA hasn’t cracked down on lawyer ratings sites (though how could it with MartindaleHubbell, the great granddaddy of ratings companies as a frequent ABA sponsor?). Still, the ABA’s recent probe regarding the transparency of lawyer rating sites as part of the Ethics 2020 Initiative seems a bit ominous. State disciplinary bodies are far worse, though. South Carolina has no problem with ratings, but has held that lawyers may violate ethics rules by failing to monitor their profiles at third party sites to ensure that client testimonials meet state ethics rules. And as I learned at last week’s MyLegal Conference, the Virginia Bar, sua sponte, is auditing third party sites and issuing take-down notices to lawyers with non-compliant testimonials at third-party sites, even if those testimonials were unsolicited.

Lawyer regulators claim to regulate ratings sites in the name of consumer protection. But to date, I am not aware of a single complaint by a consumer alleging that he or she was mislead or deceived about a lawyer’s quality due to customer rating sites.  More importantly, as Avvo’s recent venture into medical reviews demonstrates, customers are hungry for feedback and reviews about professional service providers; specifically, for information that comes from other consumers and focuses on characteristics that matter to them: returned phone calls, prompt service, taking time to explain a matter.  To try to quash ratings service and testimonials on third-party sites now that consumers are demanding them doesn’t serve the public interest, but runs counter to it.

How ironic that just as lawyer regulatory bodies are demanding transparency of ratings sites, they themselves are not transparent about their real interests: to return to a system where well-connected law firms dominate the profession, boxing out competition from smaller and equally qualified rivals.

Don’t forget to sign up for the briefing on ABA Ethics 2020 Commission rules on lawyer use of the web and cloud computing, set for November 4, 2010, here.

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  • Reddit

    Judge tosses Duluth doctor’s suit against patient’s family 
     
    By Mark Stodghill, April 28, 2011, Duluth News Tribune
     
    A judge threw out a lawsuit today 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.
     
    According to the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice website, McKee has had no disciplinary actions brought against him.
     
    “I’m very disappointed by this court’s decision because as far as I can see the only avenue that I can see that I had to respond to this overwhelming attack was through the courts, and for the time being it appears that avenue has been closed without me ever getting a chance to present my evidence,” McKee said.
     
    McKee said he hadn’t had a chance to confer with Marshall Tanick, his Minneapolis attorney. He said he will do so before he decides whether to appeal the decision. Tanick told the News Tribune he had not yet seen the decision and couldn’t comment on it.
     
    “Dennis Laurion is a liar and a bully and a coward,” McKee said. 
    More: http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/event/article/id/197679/publisher_ID/36
    Ruling: http://www.onpointnews.com/docs/Mckee-v-Laurion.pdf
     
     
     

  • Threetimer

    WELL as a patient I need some kind of place to share my experience with others so they do not have to go through what I went through.  Kind of like ‘consuner’s report for Doctors…I have NEVER been treated like this before..I just had my 3rd surgery for serve nerve pain in my foot. (9 years of suffering) Dr. Dellon came highly recommend. Here it is 3 months later and the pain is unbelievable, worse than ever. Dr. Dellon has been a very difficult Doctor to deal with from filling the insurance codes incorrectly (so now I am out $20,000.00) to telling me I should not be in pain and accusing me of just wanting pain meds. (I was told it would be a painful 6-9 month recovery). I have never been treated so horribly and don’t know where to turn. I wish I could find more information about this uncaring doctor. I fear back-lash from Dr. Dellon

  • Anonymous Emailer

    Neurologist
    appeals dismissal of online rating defamation lawsuit MAR 2012

     

     

    http://herald-review.com/news/national/doctor-s-suit-tests-limits-of-online-criticism/article_972968c4-78f2-11e1-8852-0019bb2963f4.html

    State
    Supreme Court to hear oral arguments about doctor online rating defamation
    lawsuit.

     

     

    Two years ago, Dennis Laurion
    logged on to a rate-your-doctor website to vent about a Duluth neurologist, Dr.
    David McKee.

     

     

    McKee had examined Laurion’s
    father, Kenneth, when he was hospitalized after a stroke. The family, Laurion
    wrote, wasn’t happy with his bedside manner. “When I mentioned Dr. McKee’s
    name to a friend who is a nurse, she said, ‘Dr. McKee is a real tool!’” he
    wrote.

     

     

    McKee wasn’t amused. He sued
    Laurion for defamation, and now the case is pending before the Minnesota
    Supreme Court.

     

     

    McKee, 50, is one of a small
    number of doctors who have gone to court to fight online critics, in cases that
    are testing the limits of free speech on the Internet. “Doctors are not
    used to public criticism,” said Eric Goldman, an associate professor at
    the Santa Clara University School of Law in California, who tracks such
    lawsuits. “So it’s a new phenomenon for them.”

     

     

    While such cases are rare,
    Goldman said, they’ve been popping up around the country as patient review
    sites such as vitals.com and rateyourdoctor.com have flourished. Defamation
    suits are “kind of the nuclear option,” Goldman said. “It’s the
    thing that you go to when everything else has failed.”

     

     

    McKee’s lawyer, Marshall
    Tanick, said the doctor felt he had no choice but to sue to protect his
    reputation and his medical practice. “It’s like removing graffiti from a
    wall,” said Tanick. He said Laurion distorted the facts — not only on the
    Internet, but in more than a dozen complaint letters to various medical groups.
    “He put words in the doctor’s mouth,” making McKee “sound
    uncaring, unsympathetic or just stupid.”

     

     

    McKee calls Laurion “a
    liar and a bully,” and says he has spent more than $7,000 to
    “scrub” the Internet of more than 100 vitriolic comments, many traced
    to a single computer (IP address) in Duluth.

     

     

    “Somebody who holds a
    grudge against you can very maliciously go on the Internet, post anything they
    want, and … basically redefine who you are,” he said.

     

     

    Laurion, 65, a retired Coast
    Guard chief petty officer, says he deleted the Internet comments shortly after
    the lawsuit was filed and “never rewrote them.”

     

     

    At the same time, his
    lawyer, John D. Kelly, defends the postings. He says it was Laurion’s
    perception that “the doctor’s speech and conduct were tactless and
    inconsiderate.” And that, he argued, is “constitutionally
    protected.”

     

     

    So far, Minnesota courts
    have had mixed reactions. A district court in Duluth dismissed McKee’s lawsuit
    last year, but the state Appeals Court reinstated it in January. Laurion has
    appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

     

     

    The dispute isn’t about
    McKee’s medical decisions, but about something less tangible: his body language
    and comments when he walked into Kenneth Laurion’s room at St. Luke’s Hospital
    in Duluth on April 20, 2010.

     

     

    In his online postings,
    Dennis Laurion wrote that McKee “seemed upset” because he thought his
    father, then 84, was still in intensive care. “Never having met my father
    or his family, Dr. McKee said, ‘When you weren’t in the ICU, I had to spend
    time finding out if you transferred or died,’” according to Laurion’s
    account. “When we gaped at him, he said, ‘Well, 44 percent of hemorrhagic
    strokes die within 30 days. I guess this is the better option.’”

     

     

    Laurion, who was visiting
    with his wife and mother, wrote that McKee was brusque and dismissive during
    the exam, especially when his father raised concerns that his hospital gown was
    hanging open at the back. “Dr. McKee said, ‘That doesn’t matter,’”
    according to Laurion’s account. “My wife said, ‘It matters to us,’”
    and they left the room.

     

     

    McKee discovered the online
    comments when a patient brought them to his attention. He filed suit, seeking
    more than $50,000 in damages. “The way he quoted me was completely
    inaccurate,” McKee said in an interview. At the time, he said, nobody in
    the room “appeared to me to be the slightest bit upset.”

     

     

    According to court
    documents, McKee admitted making a “jocular comment” about only two
    ways to leave the intensive care unit, but said he only meant that he was
    relieved to find Laurion in his hospital bed. He denied citing any statistic
    about stroke deaths and said the entire story was distorted beyond recognition.

     

     

    “Every physician gets
    an occasional complaint from a patient, or even a patient’s family member, but
    this was so ridiculous,” he said. “This just seemed so extremely over
    the top, and really meant to be harmful.”

     

     

    In the first legal battle,
    district Judge Eric Hylden in Duluth sided with Laurion. “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 a
    physician,” he wrote in dismissing the suit in April 2011.

     

     

    The appeals court disagreed,
    ruling in January that some of the statements were fair game for a defamation
    suit and sending the dispute back for trial.

     

     

    Tanick, McKee’s lawyer, said
    the case isn’t just about someone voicing an opinion. He said Laurion defamed
    the doctor by accusing him of things “that never happened.”

     

     

    Laurion’s lawyer, however,
    says it’s a matter of perception. “Something happened in that room that
    disturbed the four members of the family significantly,” he said.

     

     

    More than a dozen defamation
    suits have been filed since 2004 by doctors or dentists over online reviews;
    most have been dismissed or settled, according to Eric Goldman, an associate
    professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law in California.

     

     

    Some medical practices have
    even tried to silence critics by requiring patients to sign a form forbidding
    them from posting comments on the Internet. But Dr. Jeffrey Segal, a North Carolina
    neurosurgeon who promoted the controversial forms, says he’s since had a change
    of heart; he “retired” them last year in the face of widespread
    criticism. Now his firm, MedicalJustice.com, advises doctors how to use
    consumer websites to their advantage. “Doctors need to know how they’re
    being perceived,” he said. “If you’ve got 100 people saying he’s a
    jerk, maybe he is a jerk,” he said. But the vast majority of reviews are
    positive, he noted.Most of the time, Segal said, a negative review can be neutralized
    “with something as simple as saying, ‘Hey, I was having a bad day. I’m
    sorry.’” Or calling the patient to apologize for getting off on the wrong
    foot. “Those words often solve the problem,” he said.

     

     

    Still, Goldman says it’s
    important for consumers to “choose their words” carefully in online
    reviews. “We’ve been given the power to critique vendors in the
    marketplace,” he said, “but no one’s taught us how to make sure that
    we aren’t going to lose our house by doing so.”

     

     

    Further reading:

     

     

    http://www.mncourts.gov/Documents/0/Public/Calendars/September_2012.pdf

    Oral
    hearings for David McKee MD vs Dennis Laurion to be held 9/4/12 at Minnesota
    Supreme Court, Second Floor, State Capitol, St. Paul MN

     

     

    http://www.mncourts.gov/Documents/0/Public/Calendars/September_2012_Summary.htm#a111154

    Summary
    Of Issues prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office

     

     

    http://defamationlaw.net/mckee-v-laurion-the-defamation-saga-continues/

    WHEN A DOCTOR HIRES A PRIVATE
    DETECTIVE TO FIND OUT WHICH NURSE . . .

     

  • Court Watch

    State Supreme Court Hears Online Doctor Rating Defamation Suit
    SEP 2012 

     

    Excerpted from Star Tribune, September 4, 2012, Maura Lerner 

     

    Two years ago, a Duluth neurologist, Dr. David McKee, sued the
    son of an elderly patient for defamation over some negative comments that were
    posted on rate-your-doctor websites.

     

    On Tuesday, the state’s top court was asked to decide whether
    the lawsuit should finally go to trial, after the case was thrown out by a
    lower court and reinstated on appeal. The lawsuit is one of a growing number of
    legal battles testing the limits of free speech on the Internet.
     

     

    A good portion of the oral arguments were devoted to the meaning
    of the words that Dennis Laurion, 65, used to describe his family’s encounter
    with McKee in April, 2010, when Laurion’s father, Kenneth, then 84, was
    hospitalized with a stroke. 

     

    John Kelly, Laurion’s attorney,
    noted that Internet sites are a “free for all” for people to share
    opinions and that his client’s comments were perfectly appropriate. “We
    have a word, the word ‘tool,’” Kelly told the justices. “When you
    look at the word, you have to ask: Is it defamatory?” He argued that the
    phrase, while “it clearly is not a compliment,” is no worse than
    “calling someone an idiot or a fool.” 

     

    During questioning, some of the justices seemed to agree.
    “Saying someone’s a ‘real tool’ sounds more like an opinion than a
    statement of fact,” Justice Christopher Dietzen said. Chief Justice Lorie
    Skjerven Gildea had a similar reaction. “The point of the post is, ‘This
    doctor did not treat my father well,’” she said. “I can’t grasp why
    that wouldn’t be protected opinion.” 

     

    Full Article:

    http://www.startribune.com/printarticle/?id=168552176 

     

    Comments:

    http://www.facebook.com/startribune/posts/527714173921326?comment_id=110848277&offset=0&total_comments=9

  • Dennis

     

    Article by: ABBY SIMONS , Star Tribune, Updated January 30, 2013 – 9:59
    PM

     

    Finding no harm done, justices toss out lawsuit by Duluth physician.

     

    Dennis Laurion fired off his screed on a few rate-your-doctor websites
    in April 2010, along with some letters about what he saw as poor bedside manner
    by his father’s neurologist. He expected at most what he calls a
    “non-apology apology.”

     

    “I really thought I’d receive something within a few days along the
    lines of ‘I’m sorry you thought I was rude, that was not my intent’ and that
    would be the end of it,” the 66-year-old Duluth retiree said. “I
    certainly did not expect to be sued.”

     

    He was. Dr. David McKee’s defamation lawsuit was the beginning of a
    four-year legal battle that ended Wednesday when the Minnesota Supreme Court
    ruled the doctor had no legal claim against Laurion because there was no proof
    that his comments were false or were capable of harming the doctor’s
    reputation.

     

    The unanimous ruling reverses an earlier Appeals Court decision and
    brings to an end the closely watched case that brought to the forefront a First
    Amendment debate over the limits of free speech online.

     

    It’s a frustrating end for McKee, 51, who said he’s spent at least
    $50,000 in legal fees and another $11,000 to clear his name online after the
    story went viral, resulting in hundreds more negative postings about him –
    likely from people who never met him. He hasn’t ruled out a second lawsuit
    stemming from those posts.

     

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

     

    He said he offered to settle the case at no cost after the Supreme Court
    hearing. Laurion contends they couldn’t agree on the terms of the settlement,
    and said he not only deleted his initial postings after he was initially
    served, but had nothing to do with subsequent online statements about McKee.

     

    The lawsuit followed the hospitalization of Laurion’s father, Kenneth,
    for a hemorrhagic stroke at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth. Laurion, his mother
    and his wife were also in the room when McKee examined the father and made the
    statements that Laurion interpreted as rude. After his father was discharged,
    he wrote the reviews and sent the letters.

     

    On at least two sites, Laurion wrote that McKee said that “44
    percent of hemorrhagic strokes die within 30 days. I guess this is the better
    option,” and that “It doesn’t matter that the patient’s gown did not
    cover his backside.”

     

    Laurion also wrote: “When I mentioned Dr. McKee’s name to a friend
    who is a nurse, she said, ‘Dr. McKee is a real tool!’”

     

    McKee sued after he learned of the postings from another patient. A St.
    Louis County judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying Laurion’s statements were
    either protected opinion, substantially true or too vague to convey a
    defamatory meaning. The Appeals Court reversed that ruling regarding six of
    Laurion’s statements, reasoning that they were factual assertions and not
    opinions, that they harmed McKee’s reputation and that they could be proven as
    false.

     

    The Supreme Court disagreed. Writing the opinion, Justice Alan Page
    noted that McKee acknowledged that the gist of some of the statements were
    true, even if they were misinterpreted.

    Page added that the “tool” statements also didn’t pass the
    test of defaming McKee’s character. He dismissed an argument by McKee’s
    attorney, Marshall Tanick, that the “tool” comment was fabricated by
    Laurion and that the nurse never existed. Whether it was fabricated or not was
    irrelevant, the court ruled. “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,” Page wrote.

     

    Tanick said the ruling could present a slippery slope.

     

    “This decision gives individuals a license to make derogatory and
    disparaging statements about doctors, professionals and really anyone for that
    matter on the Internet without much recourse,” he said.

     

    Jane Kirtley disagreed. The professor of media ethics and law at the
    University of Minnesota School of Journalism said the ruling stems from
    “an elementary principle of libel law. I understand the rhetoric, but this
    is not a blank check for people to make false factual statements,” she
    said. “Rather, it’s an endorsement that statements of opinion are
    protected under the First Amendment.”

     

    Laurion’s attorney, John D. Kelly, said the fact that Laurion’s speech
    was made online was inconsequential to the ruling, which treated it as a
    standard defamation case. “It’s almost as if things were said around the
    water cooler or perhaps posted in a letter to the editor,” he said.
    “I think the principles they worked with are applicable to statements made
    irrespective of the medium.”

     

    Full article:

    http://www.startribune.com/local/189028521.html?refer=y

     

    Comments: http://comments.startribune.com/comments.php?d=content_comments&asset_id=189028521&sort=E&section=/local&page_nbr=2&ipp=10

     

  • Court Watch

     

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

     

    On Wednesday, the court tossed a lawsuit filed by
    neurologist David McKee, who claimed he was defamed by several statements made
    by defendant Dennis Laurion on websites used to rate doctors, report the Duluth
    News Tribune, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Associated Press.

     

    The lawsuit followed the hospitalization of  Laurion’s father, Kenneth, for a hemorrhagic
    stroke at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth. Laurion, his mother and his wife were
    also in the room when McKee examined the father and made the statements that
    Laurion interpreted as rude.

     

    Laurion expressed his dismay in several online posts with
    what he considered the doctor’s insensitive manner.

     

    Laurion had posted his comments on a website where patients
    review their doctors. The case has been watched with interest because of the
    potential conflict between free speech versus protection of professional
    reputations on the Internet.

     

    On at least two sites, Laurion wrote that McKee said that
    “44 percent of hemorrhagic strokes die within 30 days. I guess this is the
    better option,” and that “It doesn’t matter that the patient’s gown
    did not cover his backside.”

     

    Laurion also wrote: “When I mentioned Dr. McKee’s name
    to a friend who is a nurse, she said, ‘Dr. McKee is a real tool!’”

     

    He expected at most what he calls a “non-apology
    apology.”

     

    “I really thought I’d receive something within a few
    days along the lines of ‘I’m sorry you thought I was rude, that was not my
    intent’ and that would be the end of it,” the 66-year-old Duluth retiree
    said. “I certainly did not expect to be sued.”

     

    He was. Dr. David McKee’s defamation lawsuit was the
    beginning of a four-year legal battle that ended Wednesday when the Minnesota
    Supreme Court ruled the doctor had no legal claim against Laurion because there
    was no proof that his comments were false or were capable of harming the
    doctor’s reputation.

     

    In 2011, State District Judge Eric Hylden ruled that McKee
    was not defamed by the criticism and dismissed the doctor’s lawsuit.

    McKee appealed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals; and in
    January 2012, that court sent the case back to the district court for a jury to
    decide whether six statements Laurion posted about McKee on rate-your-doctor
    websites and distributed elsewhere were defamatory.

     

    Laurion appealed the Court of Appeals decision to the
    Supreme Court and the case was heard in St. Paul in September.

     

    Writing the opinion, Justice Alan Page noted that McKee
    acknowledged that the gist of some of the statements were true, even if they
    were misinterpreted.

     

    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.

     

    “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,” Page
    wrote.

     

    “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.”

     

    Laurion said the entire experience was stressful on his
    family.

    “The initial excitement has not worn off,” he told the News
    Tribune. “I’m very gratified it’s all over.”

     

    Laurion, whose father survived the stroke and is now 87,
    said he feels vindicated — not in the sense that he’s proven the things he
    said, but that he had the right to express his opinion of a single encounter on
    a website designed to rate doctors.

     

    He regrets the cost of the litigation — in his case, the
    equivalent of two years’ income, he said, some of which he had to borrow from
    relatives who dipped into their retirement funds.

     

    “I regret that it became as painful as it was,”
    Laurion said. “I don’t think I regret having posted the comment. I thought
    at the time that it was my right to do so.”

     

    McKee’s lawyer, Marshall Tanick, said he and McKee plan no
    further appeals and that they were disappointed with the ruling.

     

    McKee, a neurologist with Northland Neurology and Myology,
    said Wednesday he was disappointed and frustrated.  “We need to change the law so someone with a
    personal vendetta who is going to use the Internet to make defamatory statements
    can be held responsible,” he said.

     

    It’s a frustrating end for McKee, 51, who said he’s spent at
    least $50,000 in legal fees and another $11,000 to clear his name online after
    the story went viral, resulting in hundreds more negative postings about him –
    likely from people who never met him.

     

    He hasn’t ruled out a second lawsuit stemming from those
    posts.

     

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

     

    He said he offered to settle the case at no cost after the
    Supreme Court hearing. Laurion contends they couldn’t agree on the terms of the
    settlement, and said he not only deleted his initial postings after he was
    initially served, but had nothing to do with subsequent online statements about
    McKee.

     

    Tanick said the ruling could present a slippery slope.
    “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.

     

    Jane Kirtley disagreed. The professor of media ethics and
    law at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism said the ruling stems
    from “an elementary principle of libel law. I understand the rhetoric, but
    this is not a blank check for people to make false factual statements,”
    she said. “Rather, it’s an endorsement that statements of opinion are
    protected under the First Amendment.”

     

    Minnesota Newspaper Association attorney Mark Anfinson, who
    watched the oral arguments before the Supreme Court in September, said on
    Wednesday the justices made the right decision. That being said, “You can’t
    blame a guy like Dr. McKee for being upset,” Anfinson said. “What this case
    really exemplifies is not so much legal precepts in libel law, but the impact
    of the Internet on the ability to publish unflattering comments about people.”

     

    Before the Internet, people who complained about others
    typically did so to a small group of family, friends and acquaintances. “No one
    in the wider world ever heard them,” Anfinson said. That is no longer the case.

     

    “If you’re a practicing physician or other professional in a
    highly competitive environment, and this stuff is out there for any potential
    patient or client to see, it isn’t as simple as a superficial reading of the
    Supreme Court opinion would suggest,” he said. “I kind of feel for the guy, but
    the law as it is currently constituted really doesn’t provide him much of a
    remedy. That is the moral of the story.”

     

    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.

     

    Laurion’s attorney, John D. Kelly, said the fact that
    Laurion’s speech was made online was inconsequential to the ruling, which
    treated it as a standard defamation case. “It’s almost as if things were
    said around the water cooler or perhaps posted in a letter to the editor,”
    he said. “I think the principles they worked with are applicable to
    statements made irrespective of the medium.”

     

    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.

     

    In reply to an e-patients.net article “Minnesota Supreme
    Court sides with patient on social media defamation suit,” Attorney Marilyn
    Mann said, “I think McKee’s lawyer is incorrect. The case turned on standard
    principles of defamation law and doesn’t really break new ground.”

     

    Mark A Fischer of Duane Morris LLP, a full-service law firm
    with more than 700 attorneys in 24 offices in the United States and
    internationally, said on February 11, 2013, “For those who are under criticism,
    one of the practical consequences of bringing a defamation action is that more
    publicity for the accused statements is almost an inevitable result, whether
    the statements are ultimately found libelous or not. In other words, in
    weighing the pros and cons of initiating a lawsuit, all potential defamation
    and privacy claim plaintiffs should consider the rule of Hippocrates applicable
    to physicians, ‘First do no harm.’”

     

    In his Technology & Marketing Law Blog, Eric Goldman
    said on February 4, 2013, “I’ve been tracking doctor v. patient lawsuits for
    online reviews. See my compilation. As you can see from a quick perusal,
    doctors usually lose or voluntarily drop these lawsuits. Indeed, with
    surprising frequency, doctors end the lawsuit by writing a check to the
    defendant for the defendant’s attorneys’ fees where the state has a robust
    anti-SLAPP law. Doctors and other healthcare professionals thinking of suing
    over online reviews, take note: you’re likely to lose in court, so legal
    proceedings should be an absolute last-resort option–and even then, they might
    not be worth pursuing.

     

    Compilation. See:

     

    http://www.startribune.com/local/189028521.html

     

    http://comments.startribune.com/comments.php?d=content_comments&asset_id=189028521&section=/local&comments=true

     

    Duluth doctor’s lawsuit against patient’s son over online
    criticism dismissed

    Article by: ABBY SIMONS , Star Tribune, January 30, 2013

     

     

    http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/event/article/id/257287/

    Court protects Duluth doctor’s online critic

    By: STEVE KUCHERA, Duluth News Tribune, January 30, 2013

     

    http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_ONLINE_RATING_RISKS?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

    Minnesota high court says online post legally protected

    By STEVE KARNOWSKI, January 30, 5:34 PM EST, 2013

     

    http://www.mncourts.gov/opinions/sc/current/OPA111154-0130.pdf.

    Unanimous ruling of the Supreme Court of Minnesota

     

    http://learningboosters.blogspot.com/search/label/.%20McKee%20v%20Laurion

     

    http://blogs.duanemorris.com/duanemorrisnewmedialawblog/entry/bedside_manners_was_the_doctor

  • Donna

    I have had a headache for 5 days now. My dr is treating me for sinuses but dais he isn’t sure what it could be. It is on the left back part of my head behind my ear( not close to my ear) Help!

  • Harry Nevus

    This is extracted from:
    TWIN CITIES BUSINESS
    The Top Lawsuits Of 2013
    by Steve Kaplan
    December 20, 2013

    Never Shout “He’s a Tool!” On a Crowded Website?

    Dr. David McKee, a Duluth
    neurologist, was not laughing when he saw what one former client wrote about him on a doctor-rating website. The reviewer, Dennis Laurion, complained that McKee made statements that he interpreted as rude and quoted a nurse who had called the doctor “a real tool.” As these statements echoed through the Internet, McKee felt his reputation was being tarnished. He sued, and so began
    a four-year journey that ended this year in the Minnesota Supreme Court.

    Laurion was unhappy with the way
    McKee treated his father, who was brought to the doctor after he had a stroke. Laurion went to several rate-your-doctor sites to give his opinion. That’s just free speech, isn’t it?

    It sure is, says Laurion’s attorney,
    John D. Kelly of the Duluth firm Hanft Fride. “The court held that what my client was quoted as saying was not defamatory,” he says. “I do think the Internet makes it much easier for persons exercising poor judgment to broadcast
    defamatory statements, however… a medium… doesn’t change the quality of a statement from non-defamatory to defamatory.”

    But McKee’s lawyer, Marshall Tanick,
    of Hellmuth & Johnson, says no matter where it was said, defamation is defamation. “The thing that’s often misunderstood is that this was not just
    about free speech, but about making actual false statements,” Tanick says. “The problem is today’s unfettered opportunity to express opinion, whether or not the substance of what’s said is true or not. We need some boundaries.”

    But boundaries were not on the minds
    of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Free speech was. Chief Justice Lorie Gildea wrote, “The point of the post is, ‘This doctor did not treat my father well.’ I can’t grasp why that wouldn’t be protected opinion.” As to referring to the
    doctor as “a real tool,” Justice Alan Page wrote that the insult “falls into the category of pure opinion because the term … cannot be reasonably interpreted as a fact and it cannot be proven true or false.”

    The takeaway from this case might be
    the knowledge that behind any rating service lie real people with real feelings. McKee spent more than $60,000 in the effort to clear his name, as he saw it. Dennis Laurion told the Star Tribune he spent the equivalent of two years’ income, some of which he had to borrow from relatives who supplied the
    money by raiding their retirement funds.

    See rest of article:
    http://tcbmag.com/Industries/Law/2013-Lawsuits-Of-The-Year

  • Dennis

    In spite of Supreme Court disagreement and subsequent peer disagreement, Marshall Tanick is STILL saying “The thing
    that’s often misunderstood is that THIS WAS NOT JUST ABOUT FREE SPEECH, BUT ABOUT MAKING ACTUAL FALSE STATEMENTS. The problem is today’s unfettered
    opportunity to express opinion, whether or not the substance of what’s said is true or not. We need some boundaries.”

    From the American Health Lawyers Association: IN THIS CASE, THE COURT FOUND THE SIX ALLEGEDLY DEFAMATORY STATEMENTS WERE NOT ACTIONABLE BECAUSE THE “SUBSTANCE, THE GIST, THE STING” OF PLAINTIFF’S VERSION FOR EACH OF THE STATEMENTS AS
    PROVIDED IN DEPOSITION AND DEFENDANT’S VERSION ESSENTIALLY CARRIED THE SAME MEANING, satisfied the standard for substantial truth, did not show a tendency
    to harm the plaintiff’s reputation and lower his estimation in the community, or were incapable of conveying a defamatory meaning (e.g., when a nurse told defendant that plaintiff was “a real tool”) based on “how an ordinary person understands the language used in the light of surrounding circumstances.”

    From the Business Insurance Blog: THE MINNESOTA
    HIGH COURT SAID, FOR INSTANCE, THAT DR. MCKEE’S VERSION OF HIS COMMENT ABOUT THE INTENSIVE CARE UNIT WAS SUBSTANTIALLY SIMILAR TO MR. LAURION’S. “In other words, Dr. McKee’s account of what he said would produce the same effect on the mind of the reader,” the court said. “The minor inaccuracies of expression (in the statement) as compared to Dr. McKee’s version of what he said do not give rise to a genuine issue as to falsity.”

    From the Duane Morris Media Blog: The doctor said
    in his deposition that with regard to finding out if Mr. Laurion was alive or dead, “I made a jocular comment… to the effect of I had looked for [Kenneth Laurion] up there in the intensive care unit and was glad to find that, when he wasn’t there, that he had been moved to a regular hospital bed, because you
    only go one of two ways when you leave the intensive care unit; you either have improved to the point where you’re someplace like this or you leave because you’ve died.” THE COURT SAID THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TWO VERSIONS OF THE STATEMENTS ABOUT DEATH OR TRANSFER BY BOTH PLAINTIFF AND DEFENDANT WERE SO MINOR THAT THERE WAS NO FALSITY IN THE WEBSITE POSTINGS. In other words, the court indicated that the allegation about the statement was true.

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