John Doe A v. Penn State
First Penn State scandal lawsuit says Coach Jerry Sandusky sexually abused a boy more than 100 times and the abuse was enabled by the school's "negligent oversight."
Bradley v. Lohan
Former Betty Ford Center employee sues Lindsay Lohan for assault, alleging the actress threw a phone at her and yanked her wrist while refusing to be breathalzyed.
N.D. v. New York Post
Hotel maid allegedly raped by French politician sues the New York Post for falsely reporting that she is a prostitute who "routinely traded sex for money" with male guests.
Reinhart v. Mortenson
Two Montana residents allege the author of "Three Cups of Tea" "fabricated material about his activities and work in Pakistan and Afghanistan" to sell the book.
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• Maryland appeals court says dog owners can be held strictly liable for pit bull attacks. "Because of its aggressive and vicious nature and its capability to inflict serious and sometimes fatal injuries, pit bulls and cross-bred pit bulls are inherently dangerous." Tracey v. Solesky

• Woman who has been diagnosed as a sex addict sues a school district for failing to prevent her from having sex with male students on the school bus when she was in 11th grade.
Barksdale v. Egg Harbor Township Bd. of Ed.

• Civil rights activist challenges Georgia's "stand your ground law." "By not defining what actions create a reasonable perception justifying the use of deadly force, the Act[] potentially deprives all Georgia[n]s of the right to life without due process of law." Hutchins v. Deal

• Former patient of a Rhode Island doctor sues him for featuring her in a book about drug addiction. "Plaintiff had expected, as any reasonable patient would, that her private conversations during her treatment sessions with the Defendant would remain private and confidential."
Lisnoff v. Stein

• Class action alleges the YMCA deceives consumers by representing that it practices "Christian" values while allowing its gyms to be used for gay sex trysts. "YMCAs around the country ... are currently being used as brothels for cruising, with the YMCA's knowledge and implicit consent."
Keister v. YMCA

• Social workers are not liable for a sexual assault on a 5-year-old boy by a 16-year-old male placed in an adoptive home. "To rule against the individual defendants in this case would definitely break new ground."
Doe v. Braddy

• Student sues college for refusing to grant her the "reasonable accommodation" of a single room after she complained about her roommate's exhibitionist behavior.
Blankmeyer v. Stonehill College

• School district can be sued over a guidance counselor's sexual relationship with a student who was over the age of consent. "The inherent imbalance of power between a guidance counselor in a public school and a student may render opportunistic sexual predation sufficiently shocking, even with a 'consenting' student over sixteen, to form the basis of a substantive due process claim."
Doe v. Fournier

• Utah judge finds a "credible threat" that Utah County officials will prosecute a polygamist and his wives for bigamy. The officials' acts "suggest that an actual prosecution of Plaintiffs is forthcoming."
Brown v. Herbert

• Louisville, Ky., strip club sues a competitor for displaying an electronic sign outside a convention center that said "Don't go to Godfathers, their girls are ugly and have crabs."
The Godfather v. Trixie's Lounge

• A lawyer cannot sue two women he dated for posting derogatory comments about him on liarscheatersrus.com. "[W]hen viewed within the larger context of the website on which they were posted, there can be no doubt that a reasonable reader would understand the comments to be opinion." Coulotte v. Ryncarz

• Oglala Sioux tribe sues beer makers and Whiteclay, Neb., bars for enabling alcohol abuse on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The illegal trade in alcohol has "caused devastating injuries to the Lakota people and massive financial damages to the [tribe]."
Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Schwarting




Alltop_125x125.jpg







Judge Tosses Suit Over Bad Review of Doctor's Work Print

A Minnesota judge has boosted free-speech protections for online commentary by finding a neurologist cannot sue a patient's son over criticisms of his bedside manner that allegedly damaged his professional reputation.

Dr. David McKee

Dennis Laurion posted comments on doctor rating websites in which he vented about how Dr. David McKee of Duluth, Minn., treated his father while performing a neurological examination on him. Kenneth Laurion, 83, was recovering from a stroke at a hospital.

At one point in the examination, Dennis Laurion wrote, McKee said “it doesn’t matter” when someone mentioned that the patient’s gown had come open, exposing his backside.

Courts in California have allowed similar defamation cases to proceed, ruling that free-speech protections only apply to online criticism of medical professionals that “goes beyond a particular interaction between the parties and implicates matters of public concern that can affect many people.” Wong v. Jing, 189 Cal.App.4th 1354 (2010).

But St. Louis County District Court Judge Eric L. Hylden took a refreshingly direct approach in summarily dismissing McKee's defamation lawsuit. “Taken as a whole, the statements in this case appear to be nothing more or less than one man's description of shock at the way he and in particular his father were treated by his physician,” he said in a recent decision.

He also suggested that Internet postings are as deserving of protection as other forms of speech:

In modern society, there needs to be some give and take, some ability for parties to air their differences. Today, those disagreements may take place on various Internet sources. Because the medium has changed, however, does not make statements of this kind any more or less defamatory.

After hearing of the decision, McKee exercised his First Amendment rights by describing Laurion as “a liar and a bully and a coward.” He said he would confer with his attorney before deciding whether to appeal.

Another thin-skinned doctor, Chicago plastic surgeon Jay Pensler, has filed no fewer than three defamation suits against patients who criticized him on Yelp and Citysearch. One of the defendants complained that he gave her “Frankenstein breasts.”

The Laurions had their fateful encounter with Dr. McKee at St. Luke's Hospital in Duluth after Kenneth was moved from intensive care to a standard room. In his online postings, the younger Laurion said McKee was insensitive toward his father, telling him he'd had to “spend time finding out if you were transferred or died.”

He also quoted McKee as saying, “Forty-four percent of hemorrhagic strokes die within 30 days. I guess this is the better option.”

McKee, who sued for more than $50,000 in damages in June 2010, alleged that all of Dennis Laurion's statements were completely false. But “[l]ooking at the statements as a whole,” Hylden found no “defamatory meaning, but rather a sometimes emotional discussion of the issues.”

In the Wong case, a patient told Yelp readers that they should avoid pediatric dentist Dr. Yvonne Wong “like a disease.” A Chicago judge, meanwhile, refused to dismiss Dr. Pensler's lawsuit against Elaina Bender, who said he was “a very bad plastic surgeon” who botched her breast surgery.

Admittedly, the criticisms of Wong and Pensler were more harshly-worded than those of Dr. McKee. But courts should follow Hylden's sensible lead and protect the online expression of opinion about medical professionals.

As Bender said in her motion to dismiss, just as a court “may not bar those who yell in the street that 'Dr. Pensler is a horrible doctor,' online reviewers cannot be chained ... [P]ublic forum websites such as Yelp.com and Citysearch.com are forums where expression should be encouraged by the courts as a matter of public policy.”

UPDATES

  • McKee filed an appeal June 24, 2011.

  • A Marin County, Calif., judge ordered a plastic surgeon to pay nearly $20,000 in attorney fees to a former patient whom she sued for giving her bad reviews on Yelp.

  • In a Jan. 23, 2012 opinion, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reinstated McKee's defamation claims related to seven of Laurion's comments.



  • By Matthew Heller
    5/17/11

     

    Editor's note: On Point's RSS feed has moved to this link.

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