My wife writes a blog about medical issues, surgery and patient safety. She reposted an article from a Colorado news firm concerning a surgeon with multiple admitted surgical errors. The Dr. surrendered her licence in that state and moved to another to practice again causing patient harm. Again the Dr. surrendered her licence and moved to yet another state to practice.
Now my wife has received a letter from a lawyer stating legal action if the post is not removed by December 31, 2012.
The news firm in Colorado has documentation from the Colorado medical board proving all allegations are true.
Should my wife be concerned with legal action? Should she comply and remove the post or will she be protected under the right to free speech? Thank you for your assistance.
Asked about 8 years ago in Flagstaff, Arizona
Categories: Civil Litigation
The rough definition of defamation is a false statement about someone that is published and causes damage to the person’s reputation. The key is “false statement.” In other words, truth always defeats a charge of defamation. In fact, in some states, even a reasonable belief in the truth of the statement suffices. From the facts you have divulged, it sounds as if truth is on your side. If legal action were brought against you, you likely would defeat it. Moreover, if it were undisputed that the doctor and his counsel knew that you published the truth, then you could take subsequent legal action against them for malicious prosecution and/or abuse of process. These are all common law tort theories.
As to statutory protection, the federal Communications Decency Act of 1996 provides immunity from liability for providers and users of an "interactive computer service" who publish information provided by others. Courts in California, for example, have interpreted this to mean that a person claiming he is defamed in an online posting can seek recovery only from the original source of the statements.
With all this said, oftentimes “legal” issues boil down to common sense personal issues. If you have no personal attachment to the posting and it means nothing to you, why not remove it and avoid the hassle? If the demand letter affronts your sense of justice and liberty, then you might hold your ground. From what you have said, the law would be on your side.
Posted about 8 years ago
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