Sceptical Scalpel questions the patient
"DOC'S DEFAMATION LAWSUIT: THE PATIENT'S SIDE"
PHYSICIANS WEEKLY BY SKEPTICAL SCALPEL
Are you familiar with a case in Minnesota where a doctor sued a patient's son for defamation over a negative review he posted? Dr. David McKee's defamation lawsuit recently came up again because BuzzFeed posted an article entitled "Insult And Injury: How Doctors Are Losing The War Against Trolls." (The Jake Rossen article - http://www.buzzfeed.com/jakerossen/insult-and-injury-inside-the-webs-one-sided-war-on-doctors - would appear here but is deleted because somebody else posted it above.)
I tweeted a link to that article, and Dennis Laurion, whose father was the patient in the Minnesota, case wrote to me. (Laurion's reply to Jake Rossen's article would be here, but it was posted above.)
Correspondence of Skeptical Scalpel and Dennis K. Laurion:
[Scalpel] I very much appreciate your email and the clarification of your situation. I hope you realize that I personally took no side in the dispute you had with Dr. McKee.
[Laurion] Thanks, Doctor, for the courtesy of your reply. I do realize that you just tweeted the existence of the article.
[Scalpel] Most of the stories about your case tended to sympathize with the doctor and, his defamation suit brought far more attention to him and his behavior than if he had simply let it go. Is the litigation completely over?
[Laurion] Yes. For a while, the plaintiff threatened in settlement demands, to sue me for 500+ remarks made on Reddit.com. His "proof" was that most of the remarks came from Duluth, and I live in Duluth; he also lives and works in Duluth. He threatened to subpoena IP numbers and sue every poster, presumably all my relatives and friends, if I didn't settle. I hadn't posted to Reddit, I don't know anybody who did, and nobody ever asked my ISP for my IP number or browsing history.
[Scalpel] Did you win the case?
[Laurion] I won dismissal from the Minnesota Supreme Court; he won the right to make me spend $56K I didn't have. Minnesota allows "hip pocket lawsuits." The plaintiff served me but didn't file in court. He almost immediately asked my insurance company for a settlement, apology, and confidentiality agreement. This lawsuit was apparently supposed to last 3 weeks and never be filed in court; however, my insurance company doesn't offer me defamation coverage, and I filed my reply through the court, putting the suit into public record and the attention of newspapers.
[Scalpel] Do you have any recourse as far as say, counter-suing Dr. McKee?
[Laurion] No. In Minnesota, each party is responsible for their own legal fees. Dr. McKee had to reimburse me about $2000 of filing fees and printing costs. I'd have contemplated a suit for abuse of process, but the Appellate Court's decision not to dismiss tended to dilute my complaint.
[Scalpel] Are you familiar with strategic lawsuit against public participation lawsuits? If I recall correctly, your case took place in Minnesota which has an anti-SLAPP law.
[Laurion] I wanted my lawyer to file a SLAPP motion, but Minnesota SLAPP law only applies to actions that are wholly or in part government petitions. The plaintiff' only charged me for my internet rating site reviews and mention of my letter to the Medicare Ombudsman, the County Health Department, or the Minnesota Board of Medical Review; however, my comments to those sources were quoted in briefs and newspaper comments.
Skeptical Scalpel is a retired surgeon and was a surgical department chairman and residency program director for many years. He blogs at SkepticalScalpel.blogspot.com and tweets as @SkepticScalpel.