Skip to content

Don’t sue your way out of a bad review on Yelp

January 8, 2009

Update: this lawsuit settled out of court.

There’s an interesting lawsuit going on right now in San Fransico. Here are the details from Good Morning Silicon Valley:

“Barring a settlement in mediation talks that begin Friday, Christopher Norberg of San Francisco is headed for a March trial in a suit over negative comments about chiropractor Steven Biegel posted on the popular consumer review site Yelp. In his November 2007 post, Norberg described a billing dispute and closed by saying, “I don’t think good business means charging people whatever you feel like hoping they’ll pay without a fuss. Especially considering that I found a much better, honest chiropractor.” After Biegel sent a request and then a warning, Norberg removed the post, but Biegel filed suit, claiming harm to his reputation and business and seeking punitive damages.”

This is apparently libel. And according to Carl V. Natale, from MaineBusiness.com, we should really watch our step. This is what he says about the quote that Norberg said about the Chiropractor:

Opinion is protected by libel law. But I see the above quote to be more statement of fact and less opinion. In other words, I can write that your business has lousy coffee. That’s a protected opinion. But I can’t suggest you improve it by not making it with dirty dishwater. I should write that your coffee tastes like dirty dishwater. Again, protected opinion.

My own personal is opinion is that people will share their comments, regardless of libel. The Chiropractor in question clearly pissed off a customer. That customer used an outlet to talk about how pissed off he was. Perhaps it was a vendetta, but I think suing is the exact wrong thing to do. Better yet, why not go onto Yelp and respond. Say something like this:

“I respect the opinion of Mr. Norberg, a client of mine from date to date. But I think his characterization of me is wrong. I’m honest and hard working, and I’ll work hard to solve any issue you have. Also, my rates are public and agreed upon before treatment. I’m not sure what specific disagreement Mr. Norberg had with me, but I wish he would have talked to me directly instead of using Yelp. Call me anytime, night or day and I’ll happily explain how my treatment works, and I’ll let you know the rates.”

Which do you think would get customers: A response on Yelp, or news that you’re suing a customer?

To recap, businesses have two options when someone says something bad about it:

1. Address it. See if the problem is wrong. In the above instance, perhaps the chiropractor doesn’t publish rates. And perhaps this oversight leads to angry customers. Solution: publish rates. Be transparent about them.

2. Sue. The problem with suing is that if there is a problem (see #1), suing the person to stop saying it amplifies the problem. I just wrote a suggestion about how I think Dr. Biegal should publish his rates. Or show Mr. Norberg where those rates are. But regardless, I’m amplifying the disagreement between a business and a customer.

People generally don’t like to do business with a business that sues its customers. And finally, lets suppose for a second that Dr. Biegal wins. And people have to be more clear about their criticism moving forward. Will this really stopped anonymous bloggers? Yelp lets me join without giving my real name. Can’t I simply join Yelp and relate a bad experience with a business using the name Mickey Mantle?

Do you really see suing as stopping people from saying bad things?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
About these ads
34 Comments leave one →
  1. janet permalink
    November 11, 2009 2:29 pm

    Yelp is responsible because they continually remove positive reviews and keep the bad ones. Especially, if they are calling you weekly for money. I’ve had 10 positive reviews removed but one negative review stays up no matter what. They even double listed the one negative review and had it count towards the total stars. I am all for open speech but they are manipulating the reviews and affecting businesses. I did a screen shot of my listing to prove they are double listing. By the way, the positive reviews started dropping like flies when they started to call for money.

    • November 18, 2009 9:30 am

      Can you send me the screen shot to mattrhames at yahoo.com? That’s not right. If they intend to monetize through this kind of tactic, it’s trouble.

    • March 18, 2011 1:18 pm

      Wow! So proud someone has had the same experience that I have had. 9 great reviews filtered, and the negative ones stay on. I feel the same way. They are calling for ads and money, and I am not in a position to give money right now. Want off the site, or want to do a video, telling people how ridiculous this system is. Have done a lot of research, it has really been bothering me.

    • December 12, 2011 9:49 pm

      Yelp should be called “Yextortion”. If you don’t advertise with Yelp they place other businesses ad’s on your listing. If you get a bad review they list it. Half the time if you get a good review they “filter” it. Anyone can write a review about your business even if they haven’t been there. This leaves room for competitors and previous disgruntled employees to slam you. There has to be some recourse for business owner. Meanwhile Yelp’s buying power of online presence is only beneficial to people who advertise with them.

  2. Matthew permalink
    February 18, 2010 11:18 am

    I applaud the chiropractor for suing. People leaving reviews need to realize that there are consequences for their actions and maybe they’ll think twice before they go out on the internet and sprinkle nasty comments about people.

    We own a company that gets lots of reviews and have thought several times about suing some of our belligerent customers that leave negative reviews just to simplly make an example out of them.

    Be prepared to defend what you say and realize that there may be consequences for your actions!

    • January 6, 2014 2:16 am

      Look up “Streisand effect” before you do. Also Google “David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion” to see what it might cost.

      • Marsha11 permalink
        July 28, 2014 1:35 am

        Look up “Streisand effect” before you do. Also Google “David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion” to see what it might cost.

        This is from an April 4, 2014, Buzzfeed article by Jake Rossen.

        David McKee, M.D., a Duluth, Minn., neurologist, was unaware of the Streisand phenomenon at the time he decided to sue Dennis Laurion. Laurion’s father, Kenneth, had suffered a stroke in April 2010; McKee was called in to assess Kenneth’s condition.

        According to the Laurions, McKee was oblivious to Kenneth’s modesty. “His son was right there,” McKee counters. “If he was concerned about the gown, he didn’t get out of his chair to tie it.”

        Dennis Laurion consulted with his family to see if his impression of the arrogant doctor was real or imagined. He fired off a dozen or more letters to a variety of medical institutions, including the hospital’s ombudsman, the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice, Medicare, and the American Medical Association.

        McKee sued Laurion for defamation. A local Duluth newspaper picked up on the story, favoring Laurion’s interpretation of events.

        In April 2011, the judge granted Laurion’s motion for summary judgment, ruling his comments were protected free speech. A user on Reddit.com posted the newspaper story. Almost overnight, dozens of “reviews” popped up on RateMDs.com and other sites with outlandish commentary on McKee, who was referred to as “the dickface doctor of Duluth.”

        McKee found no easy way to exit the situation. “You get drawn in,” he says, suggesting his lawyer ** nudged him into further action. “It’s throwing good money after bad. … I wanted out almost as soon as I got in, and it was always, ‘Well, just one more step.’” McKee appealed, and the summary judgment was overturned. The case, and the measurable impact of being labeled a “REAL TOOL,” was now headed for the Minnesota Supreme Court.

        McKee was rated for several years as a top provider in Duluth Superior Magazine, but “From now until the end of time, I’ll be the jerk neurologist who was rude to a World War II veteran,” the physician says. “I’m stuck with it forever.”

        ** Marshall Tanick of Hellmuth Johnson law firm prosecuted, and John D. Kelly of Hanft Fride defended through the Minnesota Supreme Court (A11-1154, 2010 – 2013)

  3. April 14, 2010 10:36 pm

    I’ve had 12 positive reviews from extremely happy cleints and they all came down, I have 2 clients (which they say I didnt train their dogs, which I have video and check off lists for) and their negative things stayed up. I am so fustrated because if you Google pack dog obedience reviews, thats the first thing that comes up. My husband and I work very hard, honest and deligently on our business and this is taking a toll on us not only in a business way but in a morale way. I would NEVER hurt anyones pet. It makes me sick and deeply hurts. What can I do and can anyone help. Thank you so much if anyone could.

    • Anonymous permalink
      July 10, 2011 9:10 am

      YELP IS NO HELP

    • Anonymous permalink
      July 11, 2011 1:56 am

      If you still need help on this , I can help. This happened to me and as soon as I saw the bad review , I contacted the person and threatened to sue him for slander. He was scared when I told him that I can easily get a judgement against him for thousands of dollars – He deleted his bad review the same day that I made the threat. It is the only thing that works because yelp will not help you.

    • Anonymous permalink
      April 5, 2012 5:10 am

      Julie Touray/Palmer Packdogobedience/ Satz dog you deserve every bit of that review and you know it. You need to find another vocation that does not involve animals or spelling.

  4. Anonymous permalink
    July 10, 2011 9:08 am

    Yelp only distroy what you work so hard to build.Yelp wants to get pay in order to show your review.Yelp, take your good review and leaves the bad ones.Yelp is no help.I contacted Yelp severals times to remove me from the web site. So far Zero respond

  5. Anne Walch permalink
    September 22, 2011 9:05 am

    Same experience here with Yelp. I didn’t even know they existed until I googled my name in and found at #7 spot a horrendous review (same reviewer gave a one-star to a bridal shop where she had a bad experience TWENTY YEARS AGO… but I digress).

    I contacted my active patients who I know love me and asked them to review me at Yelp. In one day I got five 5 star reviews written by legitimate patients. The next day all five positive reviews were filtered and only the negative one remained. Tell me how that is fair?

    I have a 25 year “body or work” that Yelp gets to tarnish at will with no recourse. If they would stop with the filtering it would be a level playing field.

    It is some comfort to know others have the same horrible experience with Yelp.

    I would love to see a class action lawsuit against them and very large fines levied.

  6. Glenn T permalink
    October 4, 2011 4:26 am

    ANNOUNCEMENT: 

    We have recently implemented a system to outsmart yelp from hiding our filtered reviews:

    Step 1- first of all, if you’re advertising with yelp, stop doing so and shift that money to optimize your own web site instead

    Step 2- have a graphic designer make a yelp badge that is placed on your web site. It should say “we have …… filtered and unfiltered reviews on yelp”. 

    Step 3- when a visitor clicks on the badge, it will go to another page ON YOUR OWN WEB SITE (instead of going to yelp’s. (why help them get traffic and rank higher anyways)? 

    Step 4- on this page have your graphic designer get a screen capture (picture) of all your filtered and unfiltered reviews and have them pasted together onto one page.

    Now, all your reviews (filtered or not) will be visible to all your web site visitors. 

    5- put a note on the top that says, “for your convenience we have placed all our filtered and unfiltered reviews on one page to see. If you’d like to go to our live yelp page, click here …………”

    Make the whole page clickable to your live yelp page  so no-one will say you’re trying hide something or to be dishonest 

    Advantages of doing this: 

    1- your visitors will stay on your web site instead of being directed to yelp’s

    2- your visitor can’t click on your competitors 

    3- no more being a slave to yelp’s algorithm

    4- yelp would not benefit from getting traffic from you and higher rankings on google 

    5- this whole process cost us less than $150 to implement 

    Just be sure to shift that $300 per month on yelp advertising and put it into KEYWORDS that people will search for. 

    Please pass this along to everyone you know

    • Anne W. permalink
      December 12, 2011 10:18 pm

      Glenn,

      It seems that you are still directing people to Yelp– even if indirectly. And if you aren’t directing people to Yelp, you are giving them credence by mentioning them, no? Perhaps you are pointing out on your website how unreliable Yelp is by showing how they hid your positive reviews. I perhaps misunderstood your post

      I don’t want to give them the benefit of even acknowledging their existence.

      I taking all the positive reviews and posting them on my website ( with my patients permission of course).

  7. Anonymous permalink
    July 13, 2013 2:47 am

    I believe little consumers hiding behind a computer should be sued as well, for making false negative reviews. It’s a very childish act and if they’re own livelyhood was at stake depending on reviews for income, you know they’d think twice. Sue the little cocaroaches! At least make an example of them.

    • Matt Hames permalink*
      August 4, 2013 11:09 am

      Valid. Except this: what if the review is warranted?

    • Wütend Hund permalink
      January 5, 2014 7:57 pm

      Dr. McKee?

    • July 25, 2014 2:07 am

      Anonymous, you sound like Dr. David McKee of Duluth MN. Are you David McKee MD of St. Luke’s Hospital – or are you Dentist Mo Saleh?

      • Dr. Sues permalink
        August 18, 2014 12:30 am

        “A Portland dentist is suing a former patient for what the dentist claims are defamatory reviews in online forums.”

        By Sam Stites, Willamette Week, September 3, 2012

        Dr. Mo Saleh, of Dental Dynamics, originally filed suit against Spencer Bailey in Multnomah Circuit Court on June 26 seeking $300,000 after Bailey wrote about Saleh’s dental skills on Yelp, DoctorOogle.com and Google. In his lawsuit, Saleh says Bailey posts caused damage to his reputation, loss of profits and emotional distress.

        The reviews cited in the complaint include statements saying Bailey implied ”improper and insufficient dental services by Dr. Saleh.” The complaint further alleges that Bailey wrote, “if Dr. Saleh tells you that you have a cavity — GET A SECOND OPINION.”

        According to the complaint. Bailey said he had never had a cavity in 32 years until Saleh found several. Bailey’s lawyers have responded by stating that Bailey went to Saleh for dental work and then went to another dentist after experiencing pain. They claim that the other dentist advised Bailey that some of the fillings were unnecessary and some were poorly put in.

        Bailey’s attorneys, Jeremiah Ross and Linda Williams, also claimed that Saleh contacted Bailey after he reviewed the dentist on various web sites, threatening him to remove them. They say Bailey removed the postings out of concern for his and his family’s safety. Even though Bailey removed the postings, Saleh is proceeding with his suit. (Saleh’s lawyer declined to comment.)

        As online commentary about all manner of topics has exploded, so too has the number of lawsuits unhappy targets have filed about such commentary. Saleh’s suit falls under what lawyers call a practice of Strategic Law Against Public Participation or SLAPP. SLAPP cases take aim at people making statements or publishing information that could be damaging to the plaintiff. Critics say these suits are sometimes little more than attempt to censor, silence and in intimidate the defendant.

        Earlier this month Bailey’s attornies filed a motion to strike Saleh’s lawsuit under the anti-SLAPP statute, declaring that Bailey’s online reviews are free speech in a public forum. “Spencer’s review was a protected opinion and the Plaintiff cannot prove their allegations,” Ross, Bailey’s co-counsel tells WW via email. “Nor can they prove $300,000 in damages for a post that was up for three weeks.”

        A judge will hear the anti-SLAPP motion on Sept. 5.

        http://www.wweek.com/portland/blog-29111-portland_dentist_sues_patient_over_internet_posts.html

  8. September 26, 2013 5:44 am

    Article by: ABBY SIMONS , Star Tribune, Updated January 30, 2013 – 9:59 PM

    Finding no harm done, justices toss out lawsuit by Duluth physician.

    Dennis Laurion fired off his screed on a few rate-your-doctor websites in April 2010, along with some letters about what he saw as poor bedside manner by his father’s neurologist. He expected at most what he calls a “non-apology apology.”

    “I really thought I’d receive something within a few days along the lines of ‘I’m sorry you thought I was rude, that was not my intent’ and that would be the end of it,” the 66-year-old Duluth retiree said. “I certainly did not expect to be sued.”

    He was. Dr. David McKee’s defamation lawsuit was the beginning of a four-year legal battle that ended Wednesday when the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled the doctor had no legal claim against Laurion because there was no proof that his comments were false or were capable of harming the doctor’s reputation.

    The unanimous ruling reverses an earlier Appeals Court decision and brings to an end the closely watched case that brought to the forefront a First Amendment debate over the limits of free speech online.

    It’s a frustrating end for McKee, 51, who said he’s spent at least $50,000 in legal fees and another $11,000 to clear his name online after the story went viral, resulting in hundreds more negative postings about him — likely from people who never met him. He hasn’t ruled out a second lawsuit stemming from those posts.

    “The financial costs are significant, but money is money and five years from now I won’t notice the money I spent on this,” he said. “It’s been the harm to my reputation through the repeated publicity and the stress.”

    He said he offered to settle the case at no cost after the Supreme Court hearing. Laurion contends they couldn’t agree on the terms of the settlement, and said he not only deleted his initial postings after he was initially served, but had nothing to do with subsequent online statements about McKee.

    The lawsuit followed the hospitalization of Laurion’s father, Kenneth, for a hemorrhagic stroke at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth. Laurion, his mother and his wife were also in the room when McKee examined the father and made the statements that Laurion interpreted as rude. After his father was discharged, he wrote the reviews and sent the letters.

    On at least two sites, Laurion wrote that McKee said that “44 percent of hemorrhagic strokes die within 30 days. I guess this is the better option,” and that “It doesn’t matter that the patient’s gown did not cover his backside.”

    Laurion also wrote: “When I mentioned Dr. McKee’s name to a friend who is a nurse, she said, ‘Dr. McKee is a real tool!'”

    McKee sued after he learned of the postings from another patient. A St. Louis County judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying Laurion’s statements were either protected opinion, substantially true or too vague to convey a defamatory meaning. The Appeals Court reversed that ruling regarding six of Laurion’s statements, reasoning that they were factual assertions and not opinions, that they harmed McKee’s reputation and that they could be proven as false.

    The Supreme Court disagreed. Writing the opinion, Justice Alan Page noted that McKee acknowledged that the gist of some of the statements were true, even if they were misinterpreted. Page added that the “tool” statements also didn’t pass the test of defaming McKee’s character. He dismissed an argument by McKee’s attorney, Marshall Tanick, that the “tool” comment was fabricated by Laurion and that the nurse never existed. Whether it was fabricated or not was irrelevant, the court ruled. “Referring to someone as ‘a real tool’ falls into the category of pure opinion because the term ‘real tool’ cannot be reasonably interpreted as stating a fact and it cannot be proven true or false,” Page wrote.

    Tanick said the ruling could present a slippery slope.

    “This decision gives individuals a license to make derogatory and disparaging statements about doctors, professionals and really anyone for that matter on the Internet without much recourse,” he said.

    Jane Kirtley disagreed. The professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism said the ruling stems from “an elementary principle of libel law. I understand the rhetoric, but this is not a blank check for people to make false factual statements,” she said. “Rather, it’s an endorsement that statements of opinion are protected under the First Amendment.”

    Laurion’s attorney, John D. Kelly, said the fact that Laurion’s speech was made online was inconsequential to the ruling, which treated it as a standard defamation case. “It’s almost as if things were said around the water cooler or perhaps posted in a letter to the editor,” he said. “I think the principles they worked with are applicable to statements made irrespective of the medium.”

    Full article:

    http://www.startribune.com/local/189028521.html?refer=y

  9. December 19, 2013 3:15 am

    Although the Minnesota Supreme Court dismissed David McKee MD vs Dennis Laurion, the entire experience has been distressing to my family. We were initially shocked and blindsided by “jocular” comments made so soon after my father’s stroke by somebody who didn’t know us. We were overwhelmed by my being sued after posting a consumer opinion, and we were shocked by the rapidity with which it happened. My parents would be 88-year-old witnesses. My mother and wife prefer no discussion, because they don’t want to think about it. Conversation with my father only reminds him of his anger over this situation.

    My siblings and children don’t often bring it up, because they don’t know how to say anything helpful. I have been demoralized by three years of being called “Defendant Laurion” in public documents. While being sued for defamation, I have been called a passive aggressive, an oddball, a liar, a coward, a bully, a malicious person, and a zealot family member. I’ve been said to have run a cottage industry vendetta, posting 108 adverse Internet postings in person or through proxies. That’s not correct. In reality, I posted ratings at three consumer rating sites, deleted them, and never rewrote them again.

    The plaintiff’s first contact with me was a letter that said in part that he had the means and motivation to pursue me. The financial impact of being sued three years to date has been burdensome, a game of financial attrition that I haven’t wanted to play. The suit cost me the equivalent of two year’s net income – the same as 48 of my car payments plus 48 of my house payments. My family members had to dip into retirement funds to help me.

    After receipt of a threat letter, I deleted my rate-your-doctor site postings and sent confirmation emails to opposing counsel. Since May of 2010, postings on the Internet by others include newspaper accounts of the lawsuit; readers’ remarks about the newspaper accounts; and blog opinion pieces written by doctors, lawyers, public relations professionals, patient advocates, and information technology experts. Dozens of websites by doctors, lawyers, patient advocates, medical students, law schools, consumer advocates, and free speech monitors posted opinions that a doctor or plumber shouldn’t sue the family of a customer for a bad rating. These authors never said they saw my deleted ratings – only the news coverage.

    I’ve learned that laws about slander and libel do not conform to one’s expectations. I’ve read that online complaints are safe “if you stick to the facts.” That’s exactly the wrong advice. I did not want to merely post my conclusions. I wanted to stick to my recollection of what I’d heard. I don’t like to read generalities like “I’m upset. He did not treat my father well. He was insensitive. He didn’t spend enough time in my opinion.” However, such generalities are excused as opinion, hyperbole, or angry utterances. If one purports to say what happened, factual recitations can be litigated. The plaintiff must prove the facts are willfully misstated, but the defendant can go broke while waiting through the effort.

    • January 5, 2014 8:03 pm

      This is extracted from:

      TWIN CITIES BUSINESS
      The Top Lawsuits Of 2013
      by Steve Kaplan
      December 20, 2013

      Never Shout “He’s a Tool!” On a Crowded Website?

      Dr. David McKee, a Duluth neurologist, was not laughing when he saw what one former client wrote about him on a doctor-rating website. The reviewer, Dennis Laurion, complained that McKee made statements that he interpreted as rude and quoted a nurse who had called the doctor “a real tool.” As these statements echoed through the Internet, McKee felt his reputation was being tarnished. He sued, and so began a four-year journey that ended this year in the Minnesota Supreme Court.

      Laurion was unhappy with the way McKee treated his father, who was brought to the doctor after he had a stroke. Laurion went to several rate-your-doctor sites to give his opinion. That’s just free speech, isn’t it?

      It sure is, says Laurion’s attorney, John D. Kelly of the Duluth firm Hanft Fride. “The court held that what my client was quoted as saying was not defamatory,” he says. “I do think the Internet makes it much easier for persons exercising poor judgment to broadcast defamatory statements, however… a medium… doesn’t change the quality of a statement from non-defamatory to defamatory.”

      But McKee’s lawyer, Marshall Tanick, of Hellmuth & Johnson, says no matter where it was said, defamation is defamation. “The thing that’s often misunderstood is that this was not just about free speech, but about making actual false statements,” Tanick says. “The problem is today’s unfettered opportunity to express opinion, whether or not the substance of what’s said is true or not. We need some boundaries.”

      But boundaries were not on the minds of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Free speech was. Chief Justice Lorie Gildea wrote, “The point of the post is, ‘This doctor did not treat my father well.’ I can’t grasp why that wouldn’t be protected opinion.” As to referring to the doctor as “a real tool,” Justice Alan Page wrote that the insult “falls into the category of pure opinion because the term … cannot be reasonably interpreted as a fact and it cannot be proven true or false.”

      The takeaway from this case might be the knowledge that behind any rating service lie real people with real feelings. McKee spent more than $60,000 in the effort to clear his name, as he saw it. Dennis Laurion told the Star Tribune he spent the equivalent of two years’ income, some of which he had to borrow from relatives who supplied the money by raiding their retirement funds.

      See rest of article: http://tcbmag.com/Industries/Law/2013-Lawsuits-Of-The-Year

  10. January 6, 2014 2:21 am

    In spite of Supreme Court disagreement and subsequent peer disagreement, Marshall Tanick is STILL saying “The thing that’s often misunderstood is that THIS WAS NOT JUST ABOUT FREE SPEECH, BUT ABOUT MAKING ACTUAL FALSE STATEMENTS. The problem is today’s unfettered opportunity to express opinion, whether or not the substance of what’s said is true or not. We need some boundaries.”

    From the American Health Lawyers Association: IN THIS CASE, THE COURT FOUND THE SIX ALLEGEDLY DEFAMATORY STATEMENTS WERE NOT ACTIONABLE BECAUSE THE “SUBSTANCE, THE GIST, THE STING” OF PLAINTIFF’S VERSION FOR EACH OF THE STATEMENTS AS PROVIDED IN DEPOSITION AND DEFENDANT’S VERSION ESSENTIALLY CARRIED THE SAME MEANING, satisfied the standard for substantial truth, did not show a tendency to harm the plaintiff’s reputation and lower his estimation in the community, or were incapable of conveying a defamatory meaning (e.g., when a nurse told defendant that plaintiff was “a real tool”) based on “how an ordinary person understands the language used in the light of surrounding circumstances.”

    From the Business Insurance Blog: THE MINNESOTA HIGH COURT SAID, FOR INSTANCE, THAT DR. MCKEE’S VERSION OF HIS COMMENT ABOUT THE INTENSIVE CARE UNIT WAS SUBSTANTIALLY SIMILAR TO MR. LAURION’S. “In other words, Dr. McKee’s account of what he said would produce the same effect on the mind of the reader,” the court said. “The minor inaccuracies of expression (in the statement) as compared to Dr. McKee’s version of what he said do not give rise to a genuine issue as to falsity.”

    From the Duane Morris Media Blog: The doctor said in his deposition that with regard to finding out if Mr. Laurion was alive or dead, “I made a jocular comment… to the effect of I had looked for [Kenneth Laurion] up there in the intensive care unit and was glad to find that, when he wasn’t there, that he had been moved to a regular hospital bed, because you only go one of two ways when you leave the intensive care unit; you either have improved to the point where you’re someplace like this or you leave because you’ve died.” THE COURT SAID THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TWO VERSIONS OF THE STATEMENTS ABOUT DEATH OR TRANSFER BY BOTH PLAINTIFF AND DEFENDANT WERE SO MINOR THAT THERE WAS NO FALSITY IN THE WEBSITE POSTINGS. In other words, the court indicated that the allegation about the statement was true.

  11. February 21, 2014 7:37 am

    In reply to an e-patients.net article “Minnesota Supreme Court sides with patient on social media defamation suit,” Attorney Marilyn Mann said, “I think McKee’s lawyer is incorrect. The case turned on standard principles of defamation law and doesn’t really break new ground.”

    According to the Duluth News Tribune, Minnesota Newspaper Association attorney Mark Anfinson, who watched the oral arguments before the Supreme Court in September, said that the justices made the right decision. Anfinson also told the News Tribune, “What this case really exemplifies is not so much legal precepts in libel law, but the impact of the Internet on the ability to publish unflattering comments about people.”

    Anfinson was also interviewed by Minnesota Lawyer. He said, “Anyone who knew about the case, who observed the oral arguments, and who knows something about libel law is about as unsurprised with this result as they can be. It’s about as perfunctory and routine as the Supreme Court ever gets. It was a completely straightforward application of long-settled libel-law rules.”

    Anfinson said the case is more significant for social commentary purposes than for its legal analysis, noting that perhaps the justices only accepted the case to fix an error of the Court of Appeals.

    The Mankato Free Press said in February 2013: “It’s puzzling why McKee’s defamation lawsuit — filed nearly four years ago — was still in court. It’s long been established that people may spout any opinion they want without fear of being sued . . . It’s unsettling that the Appeals Court earlier ruled to allow the suit to continue.”

    Mark A Fischer of Duane Morris LLP, a full-service law firm with more than 700 attorneys in 24 offices in the United States and internationally, said on February 11, 2013, “For those who are under criticism, one of the practical consequences of bringing a defamation action is that more publicity for the accused statements is almost an inevitable result, whether the statements are ultimately found libelous or not. In other words, in weighing the pros and cons of initiating a lawsuit, all potential defamation and privacy claim plaintiffs should consider the rule of Hippocrates applicable to physicians, ‘First do no harm.’”

    In his Technology & Marketing Law Blog, Eric Goldman said on February 4, 2013, “I’ve been tracking doctor v. patient lawsuits for online reviews. . . doctors usually lose or voluntarily drop these lawsuits. Indeed, with surprising frequency, doctors end the lawsuit by writing a check to the defendant for the defendant’s attorneys’ fees where the state has a robust anti-SLAPP law. Doctors and other healthcare professionals thinking of suing over online reviews, take note: you’re likely to lose in court, so legal proceedings should be an absolute last-resort option–and even then, they might not be worth pursuing.”

    Dan Hinmon, the principal of Hive Strategies, wrote for Health Care Communication, on March 21, 2013, “According to the Star Tribune, McKee is now ticked off at the people who posted hundreds more negative comments about him after the story went viral. Incredulously, the story reports that McKee ‘hasn’t ruled out a second lawsuit stemming from these posts.’ Yes, you read that right. After spending ‘at least $50,000 in legal fees and another $11,000 to clear his name online after the story went viral,’ McKee is considering suing the rest of the people who, exercising their right of protected speech, chimed in. I’m speechless.”

  12. Uranus permalink
    May 25, 2014 5:24 am

    UW-Whitewater professor sues student over postings

    By Associated Press 22 May 2014

    A University of Wisconsin-Whitewater professor is suing a former graduate student who posted online comments and videos that the teacher considers defamatory.

    Anthony Llewellyn took a class last year from communications professor Sally Vogl-Bauer, but the experience didn’t go well.

    Llewellyn posted comments on professor-rating sites accusing the teacher of criticizing his academic abilities, grading him unfairly and causing him to fail out of school. He said he spoke with her in April about his concerns, two months before he was told he had failed her class.

    Vogl-Bauer contends the comments amount to defamation, while Llewellyn says his goal was simply to inform the public about how the professor treated him.

    Tim Edwards, the attorney representing Vogl-Bauer, said the comments could be especially damaging to someone in a small professional community. He said he and Vogl-Bauer agree that students should be allowed to express their opinions, “but when you go so far beyond that, into a concerted effort to attack somebody’s reputation because things didn’t go your way, that’s much different.”
    Edwards and Vogl-Bauer asked Llewellyn to take down his online comments and videos. They filed the lawsuit after he refused.

    Llewellyn said it’s important for the videos and comments to stay online so the public can remain informed.

    It’s not clear how successful the lawsuit will be, but a similar case in Minnesota ended with a ruling in favor of the person who posted the online rating. In the case (David McKee MD vs Dennis Laurion), a doctor took offense when a patient’s son went on a rate-your-doctor website and called him “a real tool,” slang for stupid or foolish. The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in January 2013 that the comment wasn’t defamatory because it was an opinion protected by free-speech rights.

    • July 25, 2014 2:12 am

      After Doctor David McKee and Dentist Mo Saleh lost defamation claims against online posters, Professor Sally Vogl-Bauer and Teacher Elizabeth Ethredge think they can succeed in suing students for defamation. Sally Vogl-Bauer is already mentioned on this board in an earlier post.

      “Texas teacher sues two students for defamation”
      Posted By Kristen Butler, UPI, May 13, 2013

      May 13 (UPI) — High school English teacher Elizabeth Ethredge has filed suit against two students claiming she was suspended and may be fired because they told the principal that she had asked her class to stalk a suspected thief on Facebook. Ethredge claims she was giving an “oral storytelling” lesson in November 2012 when she told her class an anecdote about her son having personal property stolen at a high school in another district, reports Courthouse News Service.

      The complaint states that Ethredge “mentioned to her students that they might be able to help recover her son’s property.” She invited any student with a Facebook account to help by messaging the suspected thief to try and purchase the stolen item from him.

      Ethredge claims the two students only brought it up months later, in March of this year, when she sent them to the principal’s office for disruptive behavior and a dress code violation.

      “Defendants wrote statements about the oral storytelling exercise that were clearly retaliatory in nature, designed to take the focus off of their inappropriate behavior and to instead focus the principal’s attention on plaintiff,” the complaint states.

      As further evidence of the students’ alleged “deliberate and malicious intent to injure plaintiff’s reputation,” the complaint shows that one student posted a message to Facebook during school hours that said, “Hey Ethredge, “I threw stones at your house” what you got for me big bada**? Case closed!”

      The second student named in the suit commented on the post, saying “Hahahahah [expletive] ain’t got [expletive]!”

      Days after the cited Facebook posts, the Board of Trustees of the Waller Independent School District proposed termination of Ethredge’s employment.

      Ethredge seeks punitive damages for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

      Source: http://www.upi.com/blog/2013/05/13/Texas-teacher-sues-two-students-for-defamation/3031368455783/

      • Gradual Student permalink
        August 30, 2014 4:40 am

        “Texas Defamation: A Big Tale Of A Teacher & Two Rebellious High School Students…”

        Thursday, February 13th, 2014

        English teacher Elizabeth Ethredge, of the Waller Independent School District, filed a Texas defamation lawsuit against two of her students, Demi Alyssa Gray and Dylan Noble Wells. Ethredge insists Gray and Noble twisted tales about classroom events in retaliation for being disciplined. But Gray and Noble insist the teacher acted inappropriately in class.

        The month was November; the year, 2012. According to Ethredge, she was giving her students a State-mandated lesson in oral storytelling. The seasoned teacher opted to regale her class with a tale about her son being robbed at another school in the district.

        According to two of her students, Gray and Noble, five months after the lesson, Ethredge encouraged students to hone their spy skills, head over to Facebook, and avenge her son’s honor by trying to purchase goods from the person Ethredge believed robbed her [ son ].

        The curious part about this case, though, is that the students waited months to “snitch” on their teacher. Why? Well, if you believe Ethredge’s side of the story, they only did it in retaliation for her sending them to the principal’s office over breaking school dress code rules and being disruptive in class.

        Soon after the two students ratted on their teacher, the school district suspended Ethredge with pay. Soon after that, administrators seriously considered termination. As a result, she decided to file an Internet defamation case.

        Filed at the Harris County Court, Ethredge is asking for punitive damages, citing defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Ethredge’s claim averred that the students’ actions were a “deliberate and malicious intent to injure plaintiff’s reputation.” To temper any speculation about the nature of what happened in her classroom, Ethredge’s suit explains that the “oral storytelling exercise was directly related to and in compliance with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, the State Standards for curriculum in public schools in Texas.”

        In order to win this case, Ethredge will most likely have to prove material harm – as you can’t win a defamation lawsuit over hurt feelings. It’s interesting to note that Texas does not have a false light tort – if it did, Ethredge may have been able to file a stronger case. That’s not to say she doesn’t have a chance at winning this one – especially since administrators are talking termination — but being able to add a false light charge would put more “meat” on the proverbial bone.

        Kelly Warner Law is based in Arizona but also licensed in Texas.

        http://kellywarnerlaw.com/texas-defamation-case-teacher-v-students/

    • Voglbauer V. Llewellyn permalink
      August 24, 2014 5:01 am

      IS A SETTLEMENT IN THE WORKS FOR VOGL-BAUER V. LLEWELLYN?

      Anthony Llewellyn now has three lawyers, Andrew Price, Kate E. Maternowski, and Laura Brenner . Jury trial is still scheduled for SEP 15 – SEP 17, 2014, in the Walworth County Judicial Center Courtroom of the Honorable Phillip A Koss; however, it is hard to find any of Anthony Llewellyn’s videos online. IS HE TAKING THE VIDEOS DOWN?

      Sally Vogl-Bauer apparently had her pre-trial hearing AUG 20, 2014. It is no longer listed on the pending court docket.

      Visit http://wcca.wicourts.gov/index.xsl . Click agree.

      On next page enter name = Llewellyn,

      County = Walworth,

      Case Number = 2013CV001140.

      You’ll see suit history and public data about Sally Vogl-Bauer and Anthony Llewellyn.

Trackbacks

  1. Suing over negative Yelp reviews (and a better response) : Dale Larson
  2. The new path to purchase « People like to share
  3. Being anonymous and mean « People like to share
  4. Social media is advertising « People like to share

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 54 other followers

%d bloggers like this: