Sunday, March 13, 2011

SLAPPs!

Clare,

Thought you'd be interested in this.

The Public Eye


“Duluth man fights defamation suit by doctor he criticized”

Source:
www.superiortelegram.com/event/article/id/
191109/publisher_ID/36/
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Dear Public Eye:
Thank you very much for sending the link.
Yes, this certainly sounds like another classic testbook SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) just like the Canadian Taxpayer financed Manitoba Metis Federation's defamation litigation against website CyberSmokeSignals. We estimate over the more than 8-years it was in play it cost the public a cool $250,000 in legal fees. The internal file number assigned by Winnipeg lawyer Murray Trachtenberg who prosecuted the case was 2003-20.
www.ptlaw.mb.ca; mtrachtenberg@ptlaw.mb.ca

It was an ill-advised, ill-conceived, misguided seriously flawed action. Here's the problem both in Manitoba and the rest of Canada. Unlike certain American states with anti-SLAPP statutes exist which can nip a lawsuit in the bud we have none. Therefore, a publicly supported organization with lots of Canadian taxpayer dollars, such as the MMF, can theoretically pursue a case ad infinitum by filing countless Motions, Affidavits, Amended Statements of Claim, etc., etc., etc. We need look no farther then the Federation's lawsuit in which over 200 court filings (CI 05-01-41955) were registered by Counselor Trachtenberg not to mention his endless stream of ad nauseam correspondence to the Defendants in all over 2,000 pages worth. How many books is that?

The original Statement of Claim before it was amended, re-amended ..... listed 22-Plaintiffs:

Manitoba Metis Federation Incorporated, Anita Campbell, David Chartrand, Elbert Chartrand, Rita Cullen, Richard DeLaronde, Darrel Deslauriers, Jean Desrosiers, William Flett, John Fleury, Laura Hyrich, Julyda Lagimodiere, Joyce Langan, Leah LaPlante, Judy Mayer, Bonnie McIntyre, Fosemarie McPherson, Darryl Montgomery, Marilee nault, Jack Park, Claire Riddle and Denise Tomas. Missing was Ron Chartrand Vice-President of the MMF's Winnipeg Region who did not agree to be a part of the litigation from the get go and the kitchen sink.

Subsequently Richard DeLaronde, Darrel Deslauriers, William Flett, Joyce Langan, Bonnie McIntyre, and Rosemarie McPherson developed a bad case of cold feet subsequently signing Notices of Discontinuance thereby withdrawing from the lawsuit. We'll leave it to Counselor Trachtenberg to explain how the same words could allegedly defame some members of a Board of Directors but not others.

Recent comments by a Crown Prosecuter perhaps said it best. To paraphrase: "Manitoba and Canada's defamation laws for that matter need to be seriously overhauled. Realistically, the only way that will happen is if someone challenges the province's Defamation Act under provisions of The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and wins. Then and only then will Manitoba Justice make the necessary changes.

Sincerely/Clare L. Pieuk

__________________________________________________

Patient's son seeks dismissal of Duluth doctor's defamation suit
A Duluth physician who sued a patient’s son for defamation was in court Thursday as the son attempted to have the case thrown out.

By: Mark Stodghill, Duluth News Tribune

Dr. David McKee A Duluth physician who sued a patient’s son for defamation was in court Thursday as the son attempted to have the case thrown out.

Dr. David McKee

Dr. David McKee, a neurologist with Northland Neurology and Myology, filed the lawsuit against Dennis Laurion of Duluth in St. Louis County District Court in June. McKee alleges that Laurion defamed him and interfered with his business by criticizing him by making false statements on websites and to various third parties including other physicians in Duluth, the St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services Advisory Committee, St. Luke’s hospital and professional organizations.

Laurion’s father, Kenneth, now 85 and a Navy combat medic in the Solomon Islands during World War II, suffered a hemorrhagic stroke and was treated by McKee at St. Luke’s hospital April 19. He recovered from his condition. However, he and his family allege that McKee was rude and insensitive to the patient in his actions and comments.

The defendants claim that when McKee didn’t find Kenneth Laurion in the Intensive Care Unit, he said: “I had to find out whether you had transferred or died.” McKee confirmed in deposition that he made the statement, but claimed it was a jocular comment meant to relieve tension.

Kenneth Laurion, his defendant son and daughter-in-law were in the courtroom Thursday, as was plaintiff McKee.

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

Duluth defense attorney John Kelly argued that his client’s statements were substantially true, were statements of opinion and couldn’t be demonstrated to be false.

“He is standing up and speaking out for his father. That is his motivation … in the hope that something gets done,” Kelly told the court.

McKee is represented by Minneapolis attorney Marshall Tanick. Tanick told the court that Laurion used the websites as a “weapon of mass destruction” to injure the reputation of McKee, place the doctor in a negative light and impugn his professional practice.

In a written motion, Tanick wrote, “The totality of statements made on these websites would be injurious to the reputation and standing of a doctor in the eyes of others who might see it, including patients or prospective patients, colleagues, peers, referral sources, and others.”

Sixth Judicial District Judge Eric Hylden is presiding over the case. As the parties introduced themselves to the court, Hylden told them it was a “very interesting type of case.”

Thinking out loud, Hylden suggested that Laurion has a constitutionally protected right to an opinion, but “isn’t there some limitation on what a person can say in that public forum?”

Kelly said his client made his statements of opinion in good faith and they were not demonstratively false.

“There has to be a protected area in which someone like Dennis Laurion can come forward, stand up and speak for his father and say, ‘Look, in this particular instance, my father didn’t get treated very well and you ought to know that.’ ”

Tanick argued that Laurion’s criticism goes much farther than that.

“He chose to tell the world at large in a way that was injurious to Dr. McKee’s reputation,” Tanick said.

Hylden took the motion for summary judgment under advisement. He has 90 days to issue his ruling.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is found at http://www.aaronkellylaw.com/Internet-Law-and-Intellectual-Property-Articles/The-WWII-Vet-vs-The-Doctor-A-Case-of-Internet-Defamation.shtml

The WWII Vet vs. The Doctor: A Case of Internet Defamation

There must be something in the air, because as of late, defamation lawsuits are popping up from sea to shining sea-online and off. Former Major League superstar, Roger Clemens, is embroiled in an upcoming defamation lawsuit, while online travel heavyweight, TripAdvisor.com, is staring down the barrel of a group action being pursued by hundreds of hotel vendors; and in Duluth, Minnesota, a doctor is suing his patient's son for-yep, you guessed it-spreading lies online.

In April of last year, World War II Veteran, Kenneth Laurion, was treated for a hemorrhagic stroke at St. Luke's Hospital by Dr. David McKee, a neurologist. During Mr. Laurion's time in the hospital, his family alleged that Dr. McKee's behavior was unacceptable. The Laurions insist that Dr. McKee's bedside manner was beyond reproach. The good doc, they claimed, lacked common sensitivity-in both actions and comments-towards patient Kenneth and the rest of the Laurion clan. Like many would today, Dennis Laurion, Kenneth's son, took to the Internet and made his displeasure with McKee known.

In June, Dr. McKee filed a defamation suit against Dennis. McKee's attorney, Marshall Tanick, called Laurion's alleged defamatory remarks ,"weapons of mass destruction" (oh yes, he went there). Tanick continued by arguing, "The totality of statements made on these websites would be injurious to the reputation and standing of a doctor in the eyes of others who might see it, including patients or prospective patients, colleagues, peers, referral sources, and others."

On February 8th, accompanied by his wife and father, Dennis Laurion found himself in the Sixth Judicial District Court. He explained how when he went to the Intensive care unit to check on his father, he overheard Dr. McKee quip, "I had to find out whether you had been transferred or died."

In a deposition, McKee acknowledged that he had made the statement, but insists it was in good humor and intended to alleviate tension.

Dr. McKee is seeking excess of $50,000. The Laurions and their lawyer, John Kelly, are claiming that any statements made about the doctor were true, thereby rendering Dennis Laurion immune from any liability. In the eyes of Kelly, Laurion's comments were opinions that cannot be demonstrated to be false in court.

Eric Hylden, the presiding judge, announced that the suit was a "very interesting type of case." Later, Hylden implied that, Constitutionally, Dennis certainly has a right to an opinion but went on to question whether or not there is some limitation to what citizens can say in an online public forum.

Hylden has 90 days to mull over the issue before his summary judgment ruling is due. Between you, me and the lamppost, it certainly does seem like someone's itching to shake up laws which revolve around Internet defamation.

Read more: http://www.aaronkellylaw.com/Internet-Law-and-Intellectual-Property-Articles/The-WWII-Vet-vs-The-Doctor-A-Case-of-Internet-Defamation.shtml

12:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This case was dismissed 4/28/11.

Source: http://www.grandforksherald.com/event/article/id/197679/publisher_ID/36/

12:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This case was dismissed 4/28/11.

Source: http://www.grandforksherald.com/event/article/id/197679/publisher_ID/36/

12:14 AM  

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