McKee v. Laurion

UPDATE ( 2/1/13)

STATUS: Court of Appeals Decision Revered.

Minnesota Supreme Court: Online Post Calling Doctor "a Real Tool" is Protected Speech
Associated Press
The decision reversed a Minnesota Court of Appeals decision that would have let the doctor's lawsuit proceed to trial.


UPDATE ( 9/3/12)

STATUS: Minnesota Supreme Court hears oral arguments about whether case should go to trial.

Minn. Sup.:Can You Tag Your Doctor a Tool Online
Star Tribune

UPDATE (1/27/12)STATUS: Appeals court sends case back to trial.

Minn. App.: Duluth Doctor's Defamation Suit Sent to Jury
The Associated Press

>>Opinion: McKee v. Laurion

UPDATE ( 9/15/2011)

STATUS: Date scheduled for Oral Argument at Minnesota Court of Appeals.

--Notice of Oral Argument

UPDATE (7/7/2011)

STATUS: Plaintiff stated on June 25, 2011, that he will appeal

Minn. Dist.: Duluth doctor appealing judge's decision to toss out defamation suit

Duluth News Tribune
A Duluth physician whose defamation suit against a former patient’s son was thrown out of district court said he has no choice but to file an appeal. Dr. David McKee, a neurologist with Northland Neurology and Myology, said he still is being targeted in online attacks related to the lawsuit he filed in June 2010 against Dennis Laurion. . . McKee said a sudden concentration of unfavorable critiques about him cropped up online shortly before Sixth District Judge Eric Hylden dismissed the suit. “It appears that Mr. Laurion made over 100 adverse postings on the Internet once he became aware that he was going to receive a favorable decision on the motion for summary judgment,” McKee said. “Appealing seems to me the only way to curb the activities of this malicious person.”

STATUS: Defendant's motion for summary judgment granted on April 28th, 2011

Minn. Dist.: Judge Tosses Suit Over Bad Review of Doctor

On Point News
A Minnesota judge has boosted free-speech protections for online commentary by finding a neurologist cannot sue a patient's son over criticisms of his bedside manner that allegedly damaged his professional reputation. Dennis Laurion posted comments on doctor rating websites in which he vented about how Dr. David McKee of Duluth, Minn., treated his father while performing a neurological examination on him. Kenneth Laurion, 83, was recovering from a stroke at a hospital.

--Decision: McKee v. Laurion


Anonymous said...

David McKee MD v Dennis Laurion is scheduled for a hearing before a three-judge panel of the Minnesota Court of Appeals on 11/10/11 at 10:00 AM at the Duluth Courthouse.

Anonymous said...

State Supreme Court hears neurologist’s defamation lawsuit against patient's son
By: Mark Stodghill, Duluth News Tribune, September 5, 2012

The Minnesota Supreme Court heard the case of a Duluth neurologist Tuesday who sued a patient’s son after being criticized on rate-your-doctor websites for his bedside manner.

Dr. David McKee, a neurologist with Northland Neurology and Myology, in 2010 filed the defamation lawsuit against Dennis Laurion of Duluth. McKee alleged that Laurion defamed him and interfered with his business by posting false statements on the internet and to various third parties, including the American Academy of Neurology, the American Neurological Association, the St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services Advisory Committee and St. Luke’s hospital, among others.

Defendant Laurion claimed that any statements he made about the doctor were true and that he is immune from any liability to the plaintiff. McKee is asking for more than $50,000 in damages.

State District Judge Eric Hylden last year 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 that court sent the case back to the district court for a jury to decide if 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 state Supreme Court and the case was heard in St. Paul on Tuesday. Duluth attorney John Kelly presented Laurion’s position to the high court. “I argued that the posting to a website is part of the context that colors or shapes what Mr. Laurion was trying to do, and the essential nature of one of these websites is to provide subjective feedback and people get lots of subjective feedback from different perspectives and from different experiences,” Kelly said.

“I believe that people going to these websites don’t expect any one recitation or report to be definitive. They’re looking for a range. So seen in that light, what Mr. Laurion was doing was offering his view of an encounter and his overall impression was that the doctor hadn’t responded as well, or wasn’t as respectful, toward his father as he would have hoped.”

To establish a defamation claim, a party must prove that the defendant communicated to a third party a factual assertion that is false and tends to harm a plaintiff’s reputation in the community.

Laurion was critical of how his father, Kenneth, now 87, and his family were treated by McKee after his father suffered a hemorrhagic stroke and spent four days at St. Luke’s hospital April 17-21 of 2010.

Minneapolis attorney Marshall Tanick represented McKee before the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

“We argued to the court that Mr. Laurion published both on the internet and to approximately 20 others, including medical organizations, false statements about Dr. McKee that disparaged his professional abilities and hurt his reputation,” Tanick said. “We asked the court to affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals so that Dr. McKee has the opportunity to present this to a jury and get his day in court.”

The Court of Appeals determined that McKee’s defamation suit should proceed regarding these six claims Laurion publicly made about the doctor:

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

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

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

That McKee said, “It doesn’t matter” that the patient’s gown did not cover his backside.

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

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


Anonymous said...

State Supreme Court case testing boundaries of website reviews
Star Tribune, September 4, 2012
Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384

A state Supreme Court case is testing the boundaries of website reviews.
Is it defamatory to call a doctor a "real tool?"

Or to claim that a nurse described a doctor that way?

The Minnesota Supreme Court wrestled with those questions on Tuesday, as the justices heard arguments in a case about what is or isn't fair game on the Internet.

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.

After McKee examined his father, Laurion complained about the doctor's bedside manner on several websites. "When I mentioned Dr. McKee's name to a friend who is a nurse, she said, 'Dr. McKee is a real tool!'" he wrote.

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."

But McKee's lawyer, Marshall Tanick, argued that Laurion had gone beyond opinion, "making up" statements that were untrue. He noted that Laurion had never been able to identify the nurse who allegedly called McKee a tool. "There was no nurse," Tanick said. "He made it up." He also accused Laurion of putting words in McKee's mouth that made him look "insensitive and uncaring."

See the whole article:

See the comments:

Anonymous said...

Critical online reviews carry risks

MINNEAPOLIS — A Duluth doctor took offense when a patient’s son posted critical remarks about him on some rate-your-doctor websites, including a comment by a nurse who purportedly called the physician “a real tool.”

So Dr. David McKee had an unusually aggressive response: He sued the son for defamation. The Duluth neurologist’s improbable case has advanced all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which is weighing whether the lawsuit should go to trial.

“His reputation is at stake. He does not want to be a target for false and malicious remarks,” said his lawyer, Marshall Tanick.

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

“Patients now have power to affect their businesses in ways they never had,” said Eric Goldman, a professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law who studies the issue. Health care providers are “evolving how to deal with patient feedback, but they’re still in the process of learning how to do that.”

Most online reviews never provoke any response. And successful challenges to negative reviews are rare. Americans are legally entitled to express opinions, as long as they don’t knowingly make false statements.

But if the two sides contest basic facts, disputes can swiftly escalate.

At issue are six of Dennis Laurion’s statements, including the account of the nurse’s name calling. McKee and his attorney say the unnamed nurse doesn’t exist and that Laurion invented her to hide behind. Laurion maintains she is real, but he can’t recall her name.

In arguments before the court in September, Laurion’s attorney John Kelly said his client’s statements were legally protected opinion that conveyed dismay over how McKee treated Laurion’s father, who had suffered a stroke. The posts described a single visit that lasted 10 to 15 minutes.

The review said McKee seemed upset that after Laurion’s father had been moved from intensive care to a regular hospital room, the doctor “had to spend time finding out if you transferred or died.”

Laurion also complained that McKee treated them brusquely and was insensitive to the family’s concerns about the patient being seen in public in a gown that gaped open in the back.

In an interview, Kelly said nothing Laurion posted was defamatory — a false statement that harms a person’s reputation.

The court is expected to rule on the case sometime in the next few months.

Lawsuits over professional reviews are uncommon in part because most patients write positive reviews, Goldman said. And many states have passed laws that block the kind of lawsuits that are filed mainly to scare someone into shutting up on matters of public concern.

Known as “strategic lawsuits against public participation,” those complaints are often forbidden by broad laws that protect criticism even if it’s wrong, Goldman said.

When health care providers do sue, they rarely succeed. Of 28 such lawsuits that Goldman tracked, 16 had been dismissed and six settled. The others were pending.

Yelp says reviewers are well within their rights to express opinions and relate their experiences. Spokeswoman Kristen Whisenand says the company discourages professionals from using what she called the “nuclear option” of suing over a negative review. She said they rarely succeed and wind up drawing more attention to the review they dislike.

See rest of article: