In Minnesota, people can call other people “insane” or “mentally ill” and this, if false, would not necessarily be defamatory because it cannot be proven true or false. It is “rhetorical hyperbole” as a matter of law?
Dr. Vibhu Kapoor began working as a radiologist at Medical Scanning Consultants, which provides radiology services to the Center for Diagnostic Imaging (CDI) in late 2007. There were quarrels in that context between Dr. Kapoor and his employer. In 2010, Dr. Kapoor and his wife had a son born at St. Cloud Medical Group (“SCMG”). There were quarrels in that context between Dr. Kapoor and the physicians involved in the birthing of Dr. Kapoor’s son.
It seems possible that Dr. Kapoor might have a somewhat quarrelsome nature and, apparently, SCMG would have none of it.
SCMG no longer wants Dr. Kapoor to step foot into either of their buildings or read any of their cases…. SCMG is VERY upset about this and thinks [Dr. Kapoor] has lost his mind.
This appears to be from internal emails from CDI’s director of operations and business development, Kaye Cunningham quoting an administrator from SCMG.
The statement cannot be proven true or false; instead, it was “rhetorical hyperbole,” the Minnesota Court of Appeals held. The Court explained:
The statement did not literally mean that SCMG believed that Dr. Kapoor had lost his mind. Rather, the statement conveyed the subjective concern of SCMG’s employees that Dr. Kapoor was so upset with Drs. Rexine and Spaulding that his ability to objectively perform his professional duties for SCMG was compromised.
I note that this case was disposed of at the trial court level on summary judgment, which the Court of Appeals affirmed. Perhaps there was actual deposition testimony or affidavit evidence that no one at SCMG literally believed Dr. Kapoor had lost his mind. It would seem odd to me that the Minnesota Court of Appeals could otherwise know the subjective intent of the speaker.
The bottom line, as this blog has said time and again, is that defamation cases are extremely difficult cases, start to finish.