Judge throws out doctor’s defamation lawsuit against patient’s son

Pissed off consumers can take a deep breath and keep ranting, for now- a judge in North Dakota has thrown out a defamation lawsuit brought by a doctor against a man who complained to websites and regulatory bodies about the care received by his father.

Neurologist Dr. David McKee alleged in his lawsuit that the patient’s father, Dennis Laurion, defamed McKee and his practice in “false statements” made 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,” damaging his practice. Laurion contended he was immune from legal action because the statements he made were true.

In an 18-page order, Sixth Judicial District Judge Eric Hylden recognized the influence of the internet on how information such as that shared by Laurion can impact a practice or business:

“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.”

McKee’s suit addressed some of the more subjective claims made by Laurion:

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.

Commenting on the ruling, McKee pointed out that Laurion allegedly made statements to nearly 20 regulatory agencies and websites, and none of the former had taken any action regarding Laurion’s claims.

[Grand Forks Herald via Consumerist]