Healthcare News & Insights

Doctor sues patient’s family — and everybody loses

HealthLaw

A recipe for disaster: Patient’s son complains about a doctor’s bedside manner online. Doctor sues patient’s family for defamation. And nobody wins.

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

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

Laurion’s complaints about McKee included that he:

  • acted angry after Laurion’s father was transferred from intensive care to another unit
  • told the family that he had to spend time finding out if Laurion’s father had been transferred or died
  • said 44% of hemorrhagic stroke victims die within 30 days, and
  • was unconcerned that the patient’s gown at one point was hanging in such a way that his rear was exposed.

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

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

At the time of publication, McKee said he hadn’t decided if he would appeal.

  • Reddit Reader

    Your link to the newspaper article is broken, but the court order can be seen at:

    http://www.onpointnews.com/docs/Mckee-v-Laurion.pdf .

    • Carol Katarsky

      Thanks. I’ve fixed the link.

  • Noah V
  • Reddit Reader

    The Minnesota Court Of Appeals has scheduled David McKee MD v Dennis Laurion for a hearing by a panel of three judges. The oral hearing will be November 10, 2011, at 10:00 AM in the Sixth District Court House of Duluth.

  • Tribune Reader

    ABBY SIMONS , Star Tribune, January 30, 2013

    [ 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.’ 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.”

    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!'”

    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.” ]

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

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

    http://patients.about.com/b/2013/02/11/and-david-mckee-fires-back-proving-the-point.htm
    Plaintiff remarks about the lawsuit

    http://learningboosters.blogspot.com/search/label/.%20McKee%20v%20Laurion
    Defendant remarks about the lawsuit

  • Dennis Laurion

    (Quote) 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.” (End quote)

    Five years from now, I shall still notice the money I spent on this. This entire experience has been distressing to my family. We were initially shocked and blindsided by “jocular” comments made so soon after my father’s stroke by somebody who didn’t know us. We were overwhelmed by my being sued after posting a consumer opinion, and we were shocked by the rapidity with which it happened. It has been the 800 pound gorilla in the room. My parents would be 88-year-old witnesses. My mother and wife prefer no discussion, because they don’t want to think about it. Conversation with my father only reminds him of his anger over this situation. My siblings and children don’t often bring it up, because they don’t know how to say anything helpful. I have been demoralized by three years of being called “Defendant Laurion” in public documents. While being sued for defamation, I have been called a passive aggressive, an oddball, a liar, a coward, a bully, a malicious person, and a zealot family member. I’ve been said to have run a cottage industry vendetta, writing 19 letters, and posting 108 adverse Internet postings in person or through proxies. That’s not correct. In reality, I posted ratings at three consumer rating sites, deleted them, and never rewrote them again.

    The plaintiff’s first contact with me was a letter that said in part that he had the means and motivation to pursue me. The financial impact of being sued three years to date has been burdensome, a game of financial attrition that I haven’t wanted to play. The suit cost me the equivalent of two year’s net income – the same as 48 of my car payments plus 48 of my house payments. My family members had to dip into retirement funds to help me.

    After receipt of a threat letter, I deleted my rate-your-doctor site postings and sent confirmation emails to opposing counsel. Since May of 2010, postings on the Internet by others include newspaper accounts of the lawsuit; readers’ remarks about the newspaper accounts; and blog opinion pieces written by doctors, lawyers, public relations professionals, patient advocates, and information technology experts. Dozens of websites by doctors, lawyers, patient advocates, medical students, law schools, consumer advocates, and free speech monitors posted opinions that a doctor or plumber shouldn’t sue the family of a customer for a bad rating. These authors never said they saw my deleted ratings – only the news coverage. Newspaper stories have caused people to call or write me to relate their own medical experiences. I’ve referred them to my lawyers. I’ve also received encouragement from other persons who have been sued over accusations of libel or slander.

    Medical peer newsletters or magazines that interviewed the plaintiff did not approach me. Websites maintained by doctors for doctors or lawyers for lawyers often caused an inference that I was a zealot family member or somebody who had asked about my dad’s chances and then shot the messenger. Generally, however, those websites echoed other websites in advising public relations responses other than a lawsuit – for fear of creating the “Streisand Effect.” As a retired layman, I brought far less resources to the battle of financial attrition.

    I’ve learned that laws about slander and libel do not conform to one’s expectations. I’ve read that online complaints are safe “if you stick to the facts.” That’s exactly the wrong advice. I did not want to merely post my conclusions. I wanted to stick to my recollection of what I’d heard. I don’t like to read generalities like “I’m upset. He did not treat my father well. He was insensitive. He didn’t spend enough time in my opinion.” However, such generalities are excused as opinion, hyperbole, or angry utterances. If one purports to say what happened, factual recitations can be litigated. The plaintiff must prove the facts are willfully misstated, but the defendant can go broke while waiting through the effort.

    I feel that defamation lawsuits are much too easy for wealthy plaintiffs. If I were to attempt suing a doctor for malpractice, my case would not proceed until I’d obtained an affidavit from another doctor, declaring that the defendant’s actions did not conform to established procedures. In a defamation suit, there’s generally no exit short of a judge’s dismissal order – which can be appealed by the plaintiff. Being called “defendant” is terribly personal, but the civil suit path is totally impersonal. During the three years that I went through depositions, interrogatories, a dismissal hearing, an appellate hearing, and a state Supreme Court hearing; I never once spoke to a judge. At depositions, the plaintiff and I sat opposite each other, while I answered his lawyer’s questions, and he answered my lawyer ‘s questions. We were not to speak to each other.

  • Dennis

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

    It is my belief that letters I wrote BEFORE the lawsuit and letters I wrote AS A RESULT of the lawsuit totalled 19. I did no doctor reviews as third parties.

    After receipt of a threat letter, I
    deleted my rate-your-doctor site postings and sent confirmation emails to
    opposing counsel. Since May of 2010, postings on the Internet by others include
    newspaper accounts of the lawsuit; readers’ remarks about the newspaper
    accounts; and blog opinion pieces written by doctors, lawyers, public relations
    professionals, patient advocates, and information technology experts. Dozens of
    websites by doctors, lawyers, patient advocates, medical students, law schools,
    consumer advocates, and free speech monitors posted opinions that a doctor or
    plumber shouldn’t sue the family of a customer for a bad rating. These authors
    never said they saw my deleted ratings – only the news coverage. Newspaper
    stories have caused people to call or write me to relate their own medical
    experiences. I’ve referred them to my lawyers. I’ve also received encouragement
    from other persons who have been sued over accusations of libel or slander.

    It was not my intention to use any descriptions
    or conclusions. It was also not my intention to claim that I had proof. Only my
    family and the doctor were in the room. My intention was to portray my
    recollection of what happened in my father’s room. The public could decide what
    to believe and what – if any – impact it had on them: insensitive doctor or
    overly-sensitive consumer?

    This entire experience has been distressing to my family. We were initially shocked
    and blindsided by “jocular” comments made so soon after my father’s stroke by
    somebody who didn’t know us. We were overwhelmed by my being sued after posting
    a consumer opinion, and we were shocked by the rapidity with which it happened.
    It has been the 800 pound gorilla in the room. My parents would be 88-year-old
    witnesses. My mother and wife prefer no discussion, because they don’t want to
    think about it. Conversation with my father only reminds him of his anger over
    this situation. My siblings and children don’t often bring it up, because they
    don’t know how to say anything helpful. I have been demoralized by three years
    of being called “Defendant Laurion” in public documents. While being sued for
    defamation, I have been called a passive aggressive, an oddball, a liar, a
    coward, a bully, a malicious person, and a zealot family member. I’ve been said
    to have run a cottage industry vendetta, posting 108 adverse Internet postings
    in person or through proxies. That’s not correct. In reality, I posted ratings
    at three consumer rating sites, deleted them, and never rewrote them again.

    Medical peer newsletters or magazines that interviewed the plaintiff did not approach me. Websites maintained by doctors for doctors or lawyers for lawyers often caused an
    inference that I was a zealot family member or somebody who had asked about my
    dad’s chances and then shot the messenger. Generally, however, those websites
    echoed other websites in advising public relations responses other than a
    lawsuit – for fear of creating the “Streisand Effect.” As a retired
    layman, I brought far less resources to the battle of financial attrition.

    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.

  • Harry Nevus

    During David McKee MD V. Dennis K. Laurion, Sixth Judicial District
    Judge Eric Hylden had full transcripts of depositions placed into the
    case record. Below are excerpts of the Defendant’s deposition answers
    about Internet postings and correspondence.

    TANICK: Well, the next thing, I take it, is you posted on somewhere.

    LAURION: Yes

    TANICK: Okay.

    LAURION: I posted on two of those Web sites.

    TANICK: All right. And you thought you posted on four. Right?

    LAURION: Yes.

    TANICK: What accounts for that discrepancy?

    LAURION: I don’t know, but when I went back to look a couple of days later,
    there was no remark on Doctor Scorecard, and when I wrote to ask the
    sites to delete them, Health Grades wrote back something to the effect
    that “You must be mistaken. We don’t accept narratives. All you could
    have done is filled out the number of stars.”

    TANICK: All right. So you think your posting only appeared on Insider Pages and Vitals?

    LAURION: Yes.

    TANICK: Didn’t you have to enter the two other ones too? You thought you did at least?

    LAURION: I thought I had, but apparently was mistaken.

    TANICK: Okay.

    TANICK: Well, if I understand you correctly, you’re telling us that this was posted on Insider Pages. Com, Doctors — http://www.Vitals.com, and you thought you posted it on the other two, but those apparently didn’t get on there, according to what you know?

    LAURION: It was actually only posted on Insiders and –

    TANICK: Vitals?

    LAURION: Vitals.

    TANICK: Okay, and I take it the reason you were drawn those two web sites is because – after Googling his name –

    LAURION: Yes.

    TANICK: – it came up that he was listed on those two. Right?

    LAURION: He was listed on all four of them.

    TANICK: On all four? Right. Was he listed on anything else?

    LAURION: I think he was, but I didn’t go any farther than the first four.

    LAURION: I looked at the sites to see if my comments were posted.

    TANICK: And they were posted on two, but not the other two. Right?

    LAURION: Exactly.

    TANICK: The letter goes on, then, to include the two enclosures, the first one
    is – the enclosure 1 is the Web site information that you posted on the
    two Web sites?

    LAURION: Yes

    TANICK: When you did your
    posting on the three – or the two Web sites that you say you posted,
    Insider Pages and Vitals.com. Right?

    LAURION: Okay.

    TANICK: I think you told us what prompted you to put the postings on Vitals and
    InsiderPages, but what was your purpose in doing it?

    LAURION: In doing what?

    TANICK: In posting – in making those postings about your encounter with Dr.
    McKee. You told us, I think, that you said you saw he had a profile
    there and he was kind of mediocre, and that kind of prompted you to put
    something on there. But what was your purpose? What was your goal or
    objective?

    LAURION: I think it was simply to state a case of bad
    behavior from that individual while sticking to not causing any
    conclusions. I didn’t make any reference to his skill as a doctor, but I

    TANICK: Well – go ahead.

    LAURION: – felt the site exists for that purpose.

    TANICK: For what purpose?

    LAURION: If you see a doctor, you can go there and rate him. You can tell good
    things about him and you can tell bad things about him.

    TANICK: And you told bad things?

    LAURION: I told that one episode. I didn’t make any predictions or characterizations.

    TANICK: Fair enough.

    TANICK: And did you use any material – did you use any notes or source material
    or anything in connection with those various letters?

    LAURION: No. I simply drafted it.

    TANICK: And you sent it to St. Luke’s Hospital. Right?

    LAURION: Yes.

    TANICK: Why?

    LAURION: Because he has privileges from St. Luke’s, and at that point, I thought
    that somebody with an M.D. after his name would call him in and say,
    “We don’t like getting complaints like this. Could you be a little
    friendlier in the future, and we’ll consider this over.”

    TANICK: So the reason you wrote to St. Luke’s – you wanted somebody in authority there to admonish Dr. McKee. Right?

    LAURION: I wanted somebody to tell him that they either felt that that was poor
    behavior or that the writer thought that was poor behavior, and we don’t
    like getting letters like this.

    TANICK: Did you have any communications back from St. Luke’s?

    LAURION: Yes.

    TANICK: Was that Dr. Gary Peterson?

    LAURION: Yes.

    TANICK: He was the medical director there. Right?

    LAURION: I’m not sure what his title is, but he’s the senior medical officer, by whatever name.

    TANICK: And what – what did he tell you?

    LAURION: Initially I got a letter from him that said that Dr. McKee is not their
    employee and that therefore his recourse was limited to giving a copy
    of my complaint to Dr. McKee, and that he had done so.

    TANICK: You also wrote to the Minnesota Medical Association?

    LAURION: Yes.

    TANICK: And what was your purpose in doing that?

    LAURION: My purpose was the same as my purpose in all of the others. They were
    either regulatory bodies or they were peer-review bodies, and my
    ultimate goal was that somebody would say, “You should be careful how
    you address your patients so that we don’t get these complaint letters.

    TANICK: On page 3, you state at the end of the first paragraph you had no
    intention of doing anything more about it, posting any more information
    about Dr. McKee or corresponding with anybody about Dr. McKee. Right?
    That’s what you said in your letter?

    LAURION: I said that with the preface “otherwise.”

    TANICK: “Otherwise.” So what did you mean, “otherwise?”

    LAURION: I meant that if there’s no further need to post about him, that I won’t. If I’m left alone, I’m fine

    TANICK: All right. And you conclude by saying, “I am no longer inclined to
    discuss Dr. McKee’s behavior with anybody.” And the next paragraph is
    “I’ll consider this matter finished. Right? And “Will Doctor McKee”
    question mark. Right?

    LAURION: Yes, and I was taking your threat
    letter at face value, that if I complied with what you wanted, that
    would be the end of the issue.

    TANICK: However, you decided not to do that. Right?

    LAURION: No, I don’t agree with that.

    TANICK: All right. So the letter prompted you to do something?

    LAURION: Yes.

    TANICK: And what is it, it prompted you to do?

    LAURION: You told me not to talk to anybody else and to delete the postings. I
    deleted the postings and stopped talking to anybody else.

    TANICK: Did you do anything else relative to that?

    LAURION: Ask me something specific, so I can answer it one way or the other.

    TANICK: Did you do anything relative to the Dr. McKee situation other than try to delete postings?

    LAURION: I successfully deleted the postings, those sites I wrote to and asked
    them to delete them and they deleted them. The sites that hadn’t posted
    them wrote and told me that they hadn’t posted them. I just did not
    delete them manually.

    TANICK: Did you have any communication at
    any time, Mr. Laurion, with any members of the media respecting or
    regarding Dr. McKee and the situation with he (sic) and your father?

    LAURION: Not by name. I wrote to – only after I got your threat letter, I wrote
    to Mark Stodghill and to two television stations. I said, “I have been
    threatened by a lawsuit by a doctor. If he follows through, is it
    newsworthy?” Nowhere in these contacts did I say his name or even my
    father’s name or St. Luke’s Hospital as a track back.

    TANICK: Mr. Laurion, I have before you Exhibit 11, and that’s a collection of
    communications that you made to members of the media, right, concerning
    the situation with Dr. McKee. Right?

    LAURION: It was concerning the fact that a doctor was suing me, and I asked if that was newsworthy.

    TANICK: Sure.

    TANICK: Exhibit 12 is a document that you sent to Improve Vitals and to Legal –
    or to Insider Pages and also to City Search – well, no. City – that’s
    their response. These are – Exhibit 12 is correspondence that you sent
    to Improve Vitals and Insider Pages asking to delete the postings you
    had made. Right?

    LAURION: Yes.

    TANICK: And that was a response to my letter to you on May 7th. Right?

    LAURION: Yes.

    TANICK: Okay, why did you – I think you indicated that the reason you sent
    these letters to these people was to see if my communications to you on
    behalf of Dr. McKee was (sic) somehow newsworthy. Right?

    LAURION: Oh, no. No.

    TANICK: All right. Well you tell me why you sent those letters.

    LAURION: I sent them to ask if a resulting lawsuit would be noteworthy. I didn’t
    ask them anything about your letter, nor did I want them to do a piece
    about my father’s treatment. I was not contacting any of those sources
    and saying “A doctor was rude to my father. Would you run with it?”
    because, obviously, that wouldn’t be newsworthy. I asked “If I’m sued,
    will it be newsworthy?”

    TANICK: Why were you asking if this was newsworthy? What was your purpose?

    LAURION: From what I’ve read on the Internet, this is a precedent type of
    situation. If you Google doctors who are suing their patients, you will
    find only six or seven names.

    MCKEE: I’m not suing a patient.

    TANICK: Go ahead.

    LAURION: And there are several – this apparently is a hot topic. Not only
    doctors suing families, but anybody suing somebody for Internet
    defamation. I think even your own website describes Internet defamation
    as a brand new field, a brand new area of experience. There’s a lot of
    conversation about it. There are a lot of sites written by doctors for
    doctors, some of them internists, some of them dentists, and so forth,
    and inevitably on all of them there’s a question of “How do I respond
    when somebody complains about me on the Internet?” And the advice
    generally given is either ask them to retract it, which they probably
    won’t do, or ignore it, it will make the Web site go higher, and if you
    sue anybody, it will garner publicity. Also, I never cared about
    Internet defamation before, but I’ve been converted and I’ve read sites
    about Internet defamation, and they generally all say if somebody sues
    you for defamation, you should shine a spotlight on it; and therefore, I
    felt that if he sues me, he should have the courage of his convictions
    and let the entire community know it. The article says he rebuts all of
    those statements. So fine, he got to say he rebutted them. I got to say
    that I affirmed them. It’s a public debate.

    TANICK: All right. And on May 11th, you were contacting media to see if there was some interest on their part in writing an article if you were sued. Right?

    LAURION: But I was not writing about Dr. McKee. I was writing and saying I might be sued by a doctor and is that newsworthy.

    TANICK: Right.

    LAURION: I purposely redacted everything from my complaint letter that would
    even lead them to what hospital. Had he not sued me, and they contacted
    me again and said what’s happening, I would have said nothing, and I
    would have never revealed his name.

    SOURCE: http://tryingourpatients.wordpress.com/2015/01/04/mckee-v-laurion-excerpts-from-deposition-about-postings-and-letters/

  • Dennis

    In response to a newspaper article about David McKee MD V. Dennis Laurion, Dr.
    McKee, founder of Northland Neurology and practitioner at St. Luke’s Hospital
    in Duluth, Minnesota, said that money is money, and he wouldn’t remember the
    impact in five years.

    I wrote my review of Dr. David McKee five years ago. I can’t speak for Dr. McKee, but I
    still remember the impact. Money that would have remodeled my bathroom was
    diverted to our battle of financial attrition, a game I did not want to play.

    This entire experience has been distressing to my family. We were initially shocked
    and blindsided by “jocular” comments made so soon after my father’s stroke by
    somebody who didn’t know us. We were overwhelmed by my being sued after posting
    a consumer opinion, and we were shocked by the rapidity with which it happened.

    David McKee MD V. Dennis Laurion has been the 800 pound gorilla in the room. My parents would be 88-year-old witnesses. My mother and wife prefer no discussion, because they don’t want to think about it. Conversation with my father only reminds him of his anger over this situation. My siblings and children don’t often bring it up, because they don’t know how
    to say anything helpful. I have been demoralized by three years of being called
    “Defendant Laurion” in public documents.

    While being sued for defamation, I have been called a passive aggressive, an oddball,
    a liar, a coward, a bully, a malicious person, and a zealot family member. I’ve
    been said to have run a cottage industry vendetta, posting 108 adverse Internet
    postings in person or through proxies. That’s not correct. In reality, I posted
    ratings at three consumer rating sites, deleted them, and never rewrote them
    again.

    What it’s like for a patient or family member to be caught up in a case like McKee
    V. Laurion was already described by the plaintiff’s lawyer in a Star Tribune newspaper
    article, “Company sues over info put on Yahoo message board,” August 27, 2001,
    and repeated in http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2001/08/27/bus_321610.shtml . It said in part: “IF A COMPANY SUES, alleging simple business disparagement or perhaps
    defamation, ITS GOAL ISN’T NECESSARILY
    TO WIN,” SAID MARSHALL TANICK, a First Amendment expert at Mansfield &
    Tanick in Minneapolis. “THE STRATEGY IS
    TO FORCE THE OTHER PERSON TO INCUR HUGE LEGAL EXPENSES THAT WILL DETER THEM AND OTHERS from making such statements,” he said … “yet very few (cases) go all
    the way to trial and verdict,” Tanick said. [ Emphasis added ]

    The plaintiff’s first contact with me was a letter that said in part that he had
    the means and motivation to pursue me. The financial impact of being sued three
    years to date has been burdensome, a game of financial attrition that I haven’t
    wanted to play. The suit cost me the equivalent of two year’s net income – the
    same as 48 of my car payments plus 48 of my house payments. My family members
    had to dip into retirement funds to help me.

    After receipt of a threat letter, I deleted my rate-your-doctor site postings and
    sent confirmation emails to opposing counsel. Since May of 2010, postings on
    the Internet by others include newspaper accounts of the lawsuit; readers’
    remarks about the newspaper accounts; and blog opinion pieces written by
    doctors, lawyers, public relations professionals, patient advocates, and
    information technology experts. Dozens of websites by doctors, lawyers, patient
    advocates, medical students, law schools, consumer advocates, and free speech
    monitors posted opinions that a doctor or plumber shouldn’t sue the family of a
    customer for a bad rating. These authors never said they saw my deleted ratings
    – only the news coverage.

    It was not my intention to use any descriptions or conclusions. It was also not my
    intention to claim that I had proof. Only my family and the doctor were in the
    room. My intention was to portray my recollection of what happened in my
    father’s room. The public could decide what to believe and what – if any –
    impact it had on them: insensitive doctor or overly-sensitive consumer?

    Medical peer newsletters or magazines that interviewed the plaintiff did not approach
    me. Websites maintained by doctors for doctors or lawyers for lawyers often
    caused an inference that I was a zealot family member or somebody who had asked
    about my dad’s chances and then shot the messenger. Generally, however, those
    websites echoed other websites in advising public relations responses other
    than a lawsuit – for fear of creating the “Streisand Effect.” As a retired
    layman, I brought far less resources to the battle of financial attrition.

    The Minnesota Supreme Court compared every statement I attributed to
    Dr. David McKee against every statement he claimed he really said. The Court
    concluded the impact of each set of statements was the same. For instance, the
    Minnesota high court said that Dr. David McKee’s version of his comment about
    the intensive care unit was substantially similar to mine.

    I’ve learned that laws about slander and libel do not conform to one’s expectations.
    I’ve read that online complaints are safe “if you stick to the facts.” That’s
    exactly the wrong advice. I did not want to merely post my conclusions. I
    wanted to stick to my recollection of what I’d heard. I don’t like to read
    generalities like “I’m upset. He did not treat my father well. He was
    insensitive. He didn’t spend enough time in my opinion.” However, such
    generalities are excused as opinion, hyperbole, or angry utterances. If one
    purports to say what happened, factual recitations can be litigated. The
    plaintiff must prove the facts are willfully misstated, but the defendant can
    go broke while waiting through the effort.

    During the existence of David McKee MD vs Dennis Laurion, I heard Dr. McKee’s lawyer tell the Minnesota Supreme Court how I could have commented without being defamatory. I am upset. I think Doctor McKee did not treat my father well. I think he was insensitive. He did
    not spend enough time in my opinion.

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