Court dismisses Duluth doctor's lawsuit against patient's sonA judge on Thursday threw out a lawsuit filed by a Duluth physician who said he was defamed by a man who publicly criticized his bedside manner.
By: Mark Stodghill, Duluth News Tribune
A judge on Thursday threw out a lawsuit filed by a Duluth physician who said he was defamed by a man who publicly criticized his bedside manner.
Dr. David McKee, a neurologist with Northland Neurology and Myology, alleged that Dennis Laurion of Duluth defamed him and interfered with his business by making false statements to the American Academy of Neurology, the American Neurological Association, two physicians in Duluth, the St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services Advisory Committee and St. Luke’s hospital, among others.
Laurion was critical of the treatment his father, Kenneth, received from McKee after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke and spending four days at St. Luke’s hospital from April 17-21 last year. Kenneth Laurion recovered from his condition.
Dennis Laurion claimed that any statements he made about the doctor were true and that he was immune from any liability to the plaintiff.
In his 18-page order dismissing the suit, Sixth Judicial District Judge Eric Hylden wrote that looking at Laurion’s “statements as a whole, the court does not find defamatory meaning, but rather a sometimes emotional discussion of the issues.”
Hylden addressed the fact that Laurion posted some of his criticisms of McKee on websites.
“In modern society, there needs to be some give and take, some ability for parties to air their differences,” the judge wrote. “Today, those disagreements may take place on various Internet sources. Because the medium has changed, however, does not make statements of this sort any more or less defamatory.”
Hylden concluded his order by stating that there wasn’t enough objective information provided to justify asking a jury to decide the matter.
Laurion said he was relieved by the court’s ruling.
“My parents, who are now 86, my wife and I have found this process very stressful for the past year, since my father’s stroke. There was never just one defendant,” he said. “We’re grateful that Judge Hylden found no need for a trial.”
In his suit, McKee alleged that Laurion made false statements including that McKee “seemed upset” that Kenneth Laurion had been transferred from the Intensive Care Unit to a ward room; that McKee told the Laurion family that he had to “spend time finding out if [the patient] had been transferred or died;” that McKee told the Laurions that 44 percent of hemorrhagic stroke victims die within 30 days; that McKee told the patient that he didn’t need therapy; that McKee said it didn’t matter that the patient’s gown was hanging from his neck with his backside exposed; that McKee blamed the patient for the loss of his time; and that McKee didn’t treat his patient with dignity.
According to the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice website, McKee has had no disciplinary actions brought against him.
“I’m very disappointed by this court’s decision because as far as I can see the only avenue that I can see that I had to respond to this overwhelming attack was through the courts, and for the time being it appears that avenue has been closed without me ever getting a chance to present my evidence,” McKee said.
McKee said Thursday he hadn’t had a chance to confer with Marshall Tanick, his Minneapolis attorney. He said he will do so before he decides whether to appeal the decision. Tanick told the News Tribune he had not yet seen the decision and couldn’t comment on it.
“Dennis Laurion is a liar and a bully and a coward,” McKee said. “He knowingly made false and malicious statements about me to a total of 19 different professional and medical organizations, regulatory agencies and websites. He often used false names and attributed his statements to fictitious third parties. I’ll make the observation that every one of those organizations that was required to make an official decision or take an official action either determined that the statement that he made was so ludicrous that it required no response from me at all or decided that his complaint had no merit.”
Laurion’s attorney John Kelly has been in another trial this week and said Thursday night that he had not yet read the decision.
“I’m grateful that the judge saw things our way for our client’s sake,” Kelly said.
Kelly was critical of McKee’s reaction to the decision.
“I think it’s regrettable that somebody would choose language of that kind in commenting on a court decision,” Kelly said. “Secondly, this case has always been about Mr. Laurion’s reaction to what he perceived to be poor conduct on the doctor’s part in relation to his interaction with his father. And he stood up and said something about that and the judge has agreed that what he said was within the bounds that are permissible under our law.”