Wednesday, May 08, 2013

SLAPP's are lawsuits of attrition!

Uranus has left a new comment on your post, "Bitcher & Prickman congratulate Dennis Laurion on his recent court victory!"

Doctor David McKee, a neurologist with Northland Neurology and Myology, practicing at St. Luke's Hospital, told the Duluth News Tribune he was disappointed and frustrated. "We need to change the law so someone with a personal vendetta who is going to use the Internet to make defamatory statements can be held responsible," he said.


The Star Tribune said 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."

McKee's lawyer, Marshall Tanick, told the Associated Press that he and McKee plan no further appeals and that they were disappointed with the ruling. "We feel it gives individuals undue license to make disparaging and derogatory statements about these people, particularly doctors and other licensed professionals, on the Internet without much recourse," Tanick said.

In reply to an e-patients.net article, Minnesota Supreme Court sides with patient on social media defamation suit," Attorney Marilyn Mann said, "I think McKee's lawyer is incorrect. The case turned on standard principles of defamation law and doesn't really break new ground.

Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the university of Minnesota School of Journalism, told the Star Tribune that the ruling stems from "an elementary principle of libel law," She said that this isn't a blank cheque for people to make false factual statements. She said, rather that it's "an endorsement that statements of opinion are protected under the First Amendment."

According to the Duluth News Tribune, Minnesota Newspaper Association attorney Mark Anfinson, who watched the oral arguments before the Supreme Court in September, and that the Justices made the right decision. Anfinson also told the News Tribune, "What this case really exemplifies is not so much legal precepts in libel law, but the impact of the Internet on the ability to publish unflattering comments about people."

The Mankato Free Press said in February 2013: "It's puzzling why McKee's defamation lawsuit - filed nearly four years ago - was still in court. It's long been established that people may spout any opinion they want without fear of being sued ... It's unsettling that the Appeals Court earlier ruled to allow the suit to continue."

In his Technology & Marketing Law Blog, Eric Goldman said on February 4, 2013, "I've been tracking doctor versus patient lawsuits for online Reviews ... doctors usually lose or voluntarily drop these lawsuits. Indeed, with surprising frequency, doctors end the lawsuit by writing a cheque to the defendant for the defendant's attorney's fees where the state has a robust anti-SLAPP law. Doctors and other healthcare professionals thinking of suing over online reviews, take note: you're likely to lose in court, so legal proceedings should be an absolute last resort option - and even then, they might not be worth pursuing."

Dan Hinmon, the principal of Hive Strategies, wrote for Health Care Communication on March, 2013, "According to the Star Tribune, McKee is now ticked off at the people who posted hundreds more negative comments about him after the story went viral. Incredulously, the story reports that McKee 'hasn't ruled out a second lawsuit stemming from those posts.' Yes, you read that right. After  'spending 'at least $50,000 in legal fees and another $11,000 to clear his name online after the story went viral,' McKee is considering suing the rest of the people who, exercising their right of protected speech, chimed in. I'm speechless."

Uranus

Dear Uranus:

Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, as many defamation suits, often come down to a battle of attrition. It's at times like this the mythical law firm Bitcher & Prickman created by Texas personal injury lawyer Charles Pugsley Fincher comes to mind.
Beatrice Bitcher
Richard Prickman

Like divorce/child custody cases, SLAPPs can become a dragged out, protracted legal battle almost like a Hatfield-McCoy feud in which the parties have been fighting for so long they likely forgot what started it. At some point the Plaintiffs/Petitioners has to realize they've got about as much as they're going to get from the courts and walk away to focus on other aspects of their lives.
David McKee
Dennis Laurion
Sincerely,
Clare L. Pieuk

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