When a doctor hires a private detective to find out which one of the 4,400 nurses in St. Louis County, MN may have called him a “tool” you know the man is serious about defending his reputation. That is just what Dr. David McKee of Northland Neurology and Myology is doing in preparation for the next leg of his defamation lawsuit against the son of a former patient, Dennis Laurion.
When neurologist Dr. David McKee treated World War II veteran Kenneth Laurion his reportedly insensitive remarks and dreadful bedside manner had the vet’s son, Dennis Laurion, up in arms. The younger Laurion took his wrath to the web and posted unfavorable reviews about Dr. McKee on several rate-your-physician websites. Dennis Laurion contended that Dr. McKee failed to treat the elder Laurion with concern and respect. According to Laurion, Dr. McKee “seemed upset” that Kenneth McKee was moved to a ward after a stint in the intensive care unit and said to his patient, “When you weren’t in ICU, I had to spend time finding out if you transferred or died.” Laurion also reported that the doctor dismissed the stroke patient’s need for therapy before pulling Kenneth Laurion up to his feet and forcing him to walk without any regard for whether the patient’s hospital gown was tied at the back. Dennis Laurion even went so far as to write that when he “mentioned Dr. McKee’s name to a friend who is a nurse, she said, ‘Dr. McKee is a real tool!’”
Angered by Laurion’s Internet critique, Dr. McKee filed a defamation suit against Dennis Laurion for $50,000. In his case Dr. McKee alleged that after treating Kenneth Laurion for his stroke, Dennis Laurion made “false and malicious statements” about the doctor to “nineteen different professional and medical organizations, regulatory agencies, and websites.”
Upon hearing the case, Sixth Judicial District Judge Eric Hylden dismissed Dr. McKee’s lawsuit because he found Dennis Laurion’s comments to be a matter of opinion and thereby protected by the First Amendment. But in January of 2012 the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed Judge Hylden’s decision and ruled that a jury should evaluate that certain statements made by Dennis Laurion for their truthfulness and defamatory potential and returned the case to the lower court for further consideration.
McKee v. Laurion is now scheduled to go to trail in January of 2013. But the Laurions are not backing down. They are already busy filing petitions with the Minnesota Supreme Court. The Laurions contend that the Minnesota Court of Appeals made an error in their determination that Dennis Laurion made false statements about his father’s allegedly “not-so-nice” neurologist. It appears that the only evidence the appeals court had to support their decision was Dr. McKee’s assertion that Dennis Laurion lied. And when you consider that a stroke sufferer will be dragged into court to give testimony on this issue just after his 88th birthday, it seems that Dr. McKee’s private investigator might have an easy time finding that nurse.