Update #3 (February 1, 2012): Think twice or three times before flaming your MD on a “rate-your-doctor” website (or flaming anyone on any website (or social media)).
If you say that the MD seemed like “a real tool,” this would be your opinion, probably not a factual allegation for which you could be successfully sued for defamation. But if you say a nurse told you the MD is “a real tool,” that would be a factual allegation (the allegation being that the nurse said these words) and, if false, that comment (and other complaints about an MD’s perceived insensitivity) could trigger a successful defamation claim against you.
[Query: Is Dr. David McKee’s reputation more hurt by the initial complaints of Defendant Laurion or by this lawsuit against his patient’s family for defamation?]
Update #2 (April 29, 2011): The same day of yesterday’s post about McKee v. Laurion (described below), Mark Stodghill of the Duluth News Tribune reported that Plaintiff/Dr. David McKee’s case was dismissed yesterday in a 17-page opinion.
Update (April 28, 2011): Just noted a February story in the Superior Telegram about an internet defamation case that had escaped me. Well-known Twin Cities attorney Marshall Tanick represented Dr. David McKee, a physician, in a defamation action brought against a family that felt unhappy with the doctor’s bedside manner and said so (on the internet, and elsewhere). Duluth trial lawyer, John Kelly, represented the defendants. (The case had been before St. Louis County District Judge (and multiple martial arts black belt) Eric Hylden.)
Original post (April 11, 2011): Faegre & Benson First Amendment lawyers are on board for the Johnny Northside appeal.
Defamation is one of those interesting areas where media sometimes has to report on itself (here, for example). Minnesota Litigator navel-gazes: what can be said with impunity or immunity on the blog?
So, for example, if a Minnesota litigator (that is, NOT “Minnesota Litigator,” but a Minnesota (lower-case) litigator) files a malicious complaint — that is, a formal legal complaint in court including knowingly false and damaging statements — can she be successfully sued for defamation? Probably not (assuming the statement has “reference and relation to the subject matter of the action”).
Absolute immunity for defamatory statements made by participants in the course of a judicial proceeding dates back at least to the sixteenth century.
What if Minnesota Litigator then publishes the Minnesota litigator’s complaint? Probably not (substantial repetition of an absolutely privileged statement does not trigger liability).
What if the first and the second lawyer are one and the same? For the same reasons, presumably not (not to speak of the First Amendment?).