Saturday, February 02, 2008

Hospitals and Anonymous Blogging: An Update of the Paris Regional Medical Center Lawsuit

Just pick up the latest news from Greg Piche of the Holland & Hart Healthcare Law Blog about the pending libel lawsuit against an anonymous blogger filed by Paris Regional Medical Center, a subsidiary of Essent. For some background on the case check out Jeff Drummond's past post Hospital Sues Blogger.

The libel lawsuit filed last year by Paris Regional Medical Center seeks the unmasking of an anonymous blogger and nine other anonymous contributors or commentators on his/her blog.

The hospital sought the identity of the anonymous bloggers from Suddenlink who balked at disclosing the identity of the anonymous blogger until he/she was given notice and an opportunity to object. As a result the anonymous blogger appeared through an attorney and objected which were rejected by the trial court.

However, on appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Appellate District of Texas at Texarkana, In re: Does 1-10, No. 06-07-00123-CV (Dec 12, 2007) followed the standard set out in Doe. V. Cahill, 884 A 2d 451 (De. 2005), granted the writ of mandamus and ordered the trial court to vacate its order requiring Suddenlink to disclose the name and address of the anonymous blogger. Basically, the court sustained the anonymous bloggers First Amendment rights of free speech until such time as the hopsital can show in a hearing at the trial court level that it has actually been damaged by the content of the blog.

The court analyzed the situation as follows:

The cases that have decided this issue range from placing an extremely light burden (indeed, virtually no burden at all) on the plaintiff, to requiring the plaintiff to tender proof of its allegations that would survive a summary judgment, or even more stringent requirements. At least one case has essentially concluded that the mere allegation of libel is sufficient. Alvis Coatings, Inc. v. John Does One Through Ten, No. 3:04CV374-H, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 30099 (W.D.N.C. Dec. 2, 2004). Other cases have articulated requirements that are so weak as to essentially require no more than allegations made in good faith (or not in bad faith), with some evidence to support the allegations. See Polito, 2004 Pa. Dist. & Cnty. Dec. LEXIS 340.

We cannot agree that either of these formulations is sufficient to survive any form of constitutional balancing. Thus, the question becomes the degree of actual proof that must be provided before the balance tips in favor of piercing the constitutional shield and disclosing the identity of the anonymous blogger.

We find ourselves more in alignment with the formulations set out in Cahill, 884 A.2d at 458-61. See extensive discussion about the application of this standard in Best W. Int'l, 2006 WL 2091695. The court in Cahill described the test as: "[B]efore a defamation plaintiff can obtain the identity of an anonymous defendant through the compulsory discovery process he must support his defamation claim with facts sufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion." Cahill, 884 A.2d at 460. This standard does not require a plaintiff to prove its case as a matter of undisputed fact, but instead to produce evidence sufficient to create issues that would preclude summary judgment.

3 comments:

Rebecca Burch said...

Oy.. scary!

Hey, I moved -- follow the breadcrumbs to http://rebeccaburch.com.

I just posted a photo you have to see.

Anonymous said...

Don’t believe one optimistic word from any public figure about the economy or humanity in general. They are all part of the problem. Its like a game of Monopoly. In America, the richest 1% now hold 1/2 OF ALL UNITED STATES WEALTH. Unlike ‘lesser’ estimates, this includes all stocks, bonds, cash, and material assets held by America’s richest 1%. Even that filthy pig Oprah acknowledged that it was at about 50% in 2006. Naturally, she put her own ‘humanitarian’ spin on it. Calling attention to her own ‘good will’. WHAT A DISGUSTING HYPOCRITE SLOB. THE RICHEST 1% HAVE LITERALLY MADE WORLD PROSPERITY ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE. Don’t fall for all of their ‘humanitarian’ CRAP. ITS A SHAM. THESE PEOPLE ARE CAUSING THE SAME PROBLEMS THEY PRETEND TO CARE ABOUT. Ask any professor of economics. Money does not grow on trees. The government can’t just print up more on a whim. At any given time, there is a relative limit to the wealth within ANY economy of ANY size. So when too much wealth accumulates at the top, the middle class slip further into debt and the lower class further into poverty. A similar rule applies worldwide. The world’s richest 1% now own over 40% of ALL WORLD WEALTH. This is EVEN AFTER you account for all of this ‘good will’ ‘humanitarian’ BS from celebrities and executives. ITS A SHAM. As they get richer and richer, less wealth is left circulating beneath them. This is the single greatest underlying cause for the current US recession. The middle class can no longer afford to sustain their share of the economy. Their wealth has been gradually transfered to the richest 1%. One way or another, we suffer because of their incredible greed. We are talking about TRILLIONS of dollars. Transfered FROM US TO THEM. Over a period of about 27 years. Thats Reaganomics for you. The wealth does not ‘trickle down’ as we were told it would. It just accumulates at the top. Shrinking the middle class and expanding the lower class. Causing a domino effect of socio-economic problems. But the rich will never stop. They will never settle for a reasonable share of ANYTHING. They will do whatever it takes to get even richer. Leaving even less of the pie for the other 99% of us to share. At the same time, they throw back a few tax deductable crumbs and call themselves ‘humanitarians’. IT CAN’T WORK THIS WAY. This is going to end just like a game of Monopoly. The current US recession will drag on for years and lead into the worst US depression of all time. The richest 1% will live like royalty while the rest of us fight over jobs, food, and gasoline. Crime, poverty, and suicide will skyrocket. So don’t fall for all of this PR CRAP from Hollywood, Pro Sports, and Wall Street PIGS. ITS A SHAM. Remember: They are filthy rich EVEN AFTER their tax deductable contributions. Greedy pigs. Now, we are headed for the worst economic and cultural crisis of all time. SEND A “THANK YOU” NOTE TO YOUR FAVORITE MILLIONAIRE. ITS THEIR FAULT. I’m not discounting other factors like China, sub-prime, or gas prices. But all of those factors combined still pale in comparison to that HUGE transfer of wealth to the rich. Anyway, those other factors are all related and further aggrivated because of GREED. If it weren’t for the OBSCENE distribution of wealth within our country, there never would have been such a market for sub-prime to begin with. Which by the way, was another trick whipped up by greedy bankers and executives. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. The credit industry has been ENDORSED by people like Oprah, Ellen, Dr Phil, and many other celebrities. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. So don’t fall for their ‘humanitarian’ BS. ITS A SHAM. NOTHING BUT TAX DEDUCTABLE PR CRAP. Bottom line: The richest 1% will soon tank the largest economy in the world. It will be like nothing we’ve ever seen before. and thats just the beginning. Greed will eventually tank every major economy in the world. Causing millions to suffer and die. Oprah, Angelina, Brad, Bono, and Bill are not part of the solution. They are part of the problem. EXTREME WEALTH HAS MADE WORLD PROSPERITY ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE. WITHOUT WORLD PROSPERITY, THERE WILL NEVER BE WORLD PEACE OR ANYTHING EVEN CLOSE. GREED KILLS. IT WILL BE OUR DOWNFALL. Of course, the rich will throw a fit and call me a madman. Of course, their ignorant fans will do the same. You have to expect that. But I speak the truth. If you don’t believe me, then copy this entry and run it by any professor of economics or socio-economics. Then tell a friend. Call the local radio station. Re-post this entry or put it in your own words. Be one of the first to predict the worst economic and cultural crisis of all time and explain its cause. WE ARE IN BIG TROUBLE.

fac_p said...

Hate to come in under a rant like that, but thought you might like to know we're back in court this week...about a week after elections. Stay tuned, it should be interesting.