Doctor Defamation Ruling Is A Cautionary Tale For Would-Be Pro Se Plaintiffs

Another instructive doctor defamation case has hit headlines. The lesson: get solid advice before filing, or risk excessive and unnecessary legal fees.

Anti-Aging Entrepreneurs v. Blogging Psychiatrist

What You Need To Know About The Plaintiffs

Years ago, two doctors — we’ll call them “Chet” and “Bret” — wisely threw their eggs into the anti-aging basket, and it worked; the two physicians built a wildly successful aesthetic preservation practice in Illinois.

What You Need To Know About The Defendant

While Chet and Bret were getting their clinic on, in another part of the country, a psychiatrist (whom we’ll call “Ben”) started blogging. He named his corner of the Internet Quackwatch.com, and the medical community soon learned that good ole’ Ben had a yen for civilian policing (in the name of consumer protection, of course).

14-Year-Old Blog Post Erupts Into Defamation Lawsuit

Apparently, back in the year two-thouuusssaaaaaand, Ben published a 5-sentence post in which he allegedly insinuated that Chet and Bret didn’t have the proper medical license to practice in Illinois; it stayed up for years, without much notice.

But in 2014, Ben’s post vaulted to the fore of search results.

Needless to say, Chet and Bret wanted to slay Ben’s 14-year-old post. So, armed with proof of their good professional standing in the state of Illinois, the docs filed a defamation by implication claim.

But guess what? According to the judge, Chet and Bret didn’t present “a plausible claim for defamation by implication.” Specifically, the pair supposedly neglected to outline an actual false statement of fact in their filing.

Why is that important? Because in 99% of slander and libel cases, to win, plaintiffs must prove that the defendant published or broadcast a false statement of fact. So, if plaintiffs fail to state the untruth at issue, precisely, the case stalls at the start gate.

So, now, Chet and Bret must redraft the claim, and then re-file.

The Moral Of This Doctor Defamation Tale?

We asked defamation attorney Dan Warner why this case was worth considering. He explained, “To be fair, judges interpret details differently; there is never a guarantee how the tide will turn, with any given claim — lawyers or no lawyers.

But this case is instructive to people considering self-representation because it’s a reminder that defamation is an exceptionally nuanced area of law.”

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