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The Minnesota High Court heard oral arguments four months ago (see "TUOL" post 9/5/12) in the case brought by Dr. McKee of Northland Neurology & Myology in Duluth against the son of a 65-year-old stroke patient he treated concerning a half-dozen allegedly actionable statements reflecting the son's dissatisfaction with the medical care provided and his belief that Dr. McKee was rude and insensitive.
The lightning rod among the allegedly offensive statements was a post by the defendant that said: "When I mentioned Dr. McKee's name to a friend who is a nurse, she said, 'Dr. McKee is a real tool!'" "Referring to someone as 'a real tool' falls into the category of pure opinion," Justice Page wrote, "because the term 'real tool' cannot be reasonably interpreted as stating a fact and it cannot be proven true or false." Characterizing the remark as "rhetorical hyperbole" and "mere vituperation or abuse," Justice Page said it could not support a defamation action as a matter of law.
The devoted "TUOL" staff supports the Minnesota Supreme Court's decision and the principle that pure opinion is not susceptible to a defamatory meaning, but questions whether bringing a lawsuit such as the one at issue in the first place is sufficient proof of "tooldom" in and of itself.