Court Says Complaining About Doctor’s Bedside Manner Is Not Defamation

Date: May 10, 2011
By: Mike Masnick
Link: Online Story

Court Says Complaining About Doctor’s Bedside Manner Is Not Defamation

from the good-ruling dept

We keep hearing stories about doctors suing patients for bad reviews. However, there’s some good news, in that a recent court ruling was pretty clear that complaining about your doctor is not defamation. In this case, it wasn’t even just complaining via online reviews, but the son of the patient filed complaints about the doctor’s treatment and bedside manner with “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.” In other words, the son was not happy with Dr. David McKee and made that widely known.

The court clearly saw someone who was upset and emotional, and saw no defamatory intent:

    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.”

As for the public online reviews that the son filed also? Perfectly reasonable:

    “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.”

It’s really nice to see some judges recognize this simple point. I doubt we’ll see any slowdown of such lawsuits any time soon, but any case law that comes out reasonably seems like a good thing.