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The Letters of the Law

(image: public domain--if this is noted as public domain in error, please email me and I will take it down)

(image: public domain–if this is noted as public domain in error, please email me and I will take it down)

I’m just barely a lawyer at this point, but even with my articles just recently completed and the ink still drying on my licensing certificate, I have come to know how much lawyers like their letters.

Lawyers, it would seem, write frequent letters to clients and to the other side. Some will also draw lines in the sand that are designed to put the fear of law in the alleged infringer, but the positions taken often do not stand up to professional scrutiny.

Enter Leif Olson, whose response to one such “line in the sand” letter, should win some kind of award for awesomeness.


One comment on “The Letters of the Law

  1. Tribune Reader
    July 18, 2013

    High court rules online post didn’t defame doctor.

    MINNEAPOLIS — A man’s online post calling a doctor “a real tool” is protected speech, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Wednesday. The state’s highest court dismissed a case by Duluth neurologist David McKee, who took offense when a patient’s son posted critical remarks about him on rate-your-doctor websites. Those remarks included a claim that a nurse called the doctor “a real tool,” slang for stupid or foolish.

    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.

    Laurion expressed his dismay in several online posts with what he considered the doctor’s insensitive manner.

    Laurion had posted his comments on a website where patients review their doctors. The case has been watched with interest because of the potential conflict between free speech versus protection of professional reputations on the Internet.

    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!'”

    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’ and that would be the end of it,” the 66-year-old Duluth retiree said. “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.

    In 2011, State District Judge Eric Hylden ruled that McKee was not defamed by the criticism and dismissed the doctor’s lawsuit.

    McKee appealed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals; and in January 2012, that court sent the case back to the district court for a jury to decide whether six statements Laurion posted about McKee on rate-your-doctor websites and distributed elsewhere were defamatory.

    Laurion appealed the Court of Appeals decision to the Supreme Court and the case was heard in St. Paul in September.

    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.

    The ruling also said it doesn’t matter whether the unnamed nurse actually exists. McKee’s attorney argued that Laurion might have fabricated the nurse, something Laurion’s attorney denied. And it said the doctor’s objections to Laurion’s other comments also failed the required legal tests.

    “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.

    For full articles:
    Minnesota high court says online post legally protected
    Court protects Duluth doctor’s online critic
    Duluth doctor’s lawsuit against patient’s son over online criticism dismissed

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This entry was posted on June 29, 2013 by in Constitutional Rights, Humour, Rights and tagged , , , , .
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