Online Reviews: When legal action happens

By Brooke Strickland

The rise of online reviews has happened quickly. Give people a forum to speak their mind, and most people will do it. But review sites are a tricky business. Some people use it as a platform to talk negatively, even to the point of lying. In fact, one such issue is currently in front of the Minnesota Supreme Court. This AP story shows:

A Minnesota doctor took offense when a patient’s son posted critical remarks about him on some rate-your-doctor websites, including a comment by a nurse who purportedly called the physician “a real tool.”

So Dr. David McKee had an unusually aggressive response: He sued the son for defamation. The Duluth neurologist’s improbable case has advanced all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which is weighing whether the lawsuit should go to trial.

At issue are six of Dennis Laurion’s statements, including the account of the nurse’s name calling. McKee and his attorney say the unnamed nurse doesn’t exist and that Laurion invented her to hide behind. Laurion maintains she is real, but he can’t recall her name.

When health providers sue in these types of cases, they are generally unsuccessful according to Eric Goldman, who teaches law at Santa Clara University. He has tracked 28 of these kinds of lawsuits, and among these, 16 were dismissed and six were settled. [1]

So how do you keep your name and reputation in the clear on the Internet? You can never really guarantee what people will say about you, but you can certainly do your best to work hard to spend time with your patients, make them feel like they’re heard, and not rush them out the door. These basics of patient care speak volumes to the patients you see.


[1] Jones, Ashby. “Online Reviews: When do they go from helpful to defamatory?” Wall Street Journal. October 25, 2012. October 26, 2012.