Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Will Oregon Twibel Case Proceed to Trial?

Downtown Tigard, Oregon, Main StreetImage via WikipediaThe Multnomah (Ore.) County Circuit Court this month may hear Darm v. Craig (Case No. 1107-08823), Oregon's first Twitter-based defamation ("Twibel") trial in which Jerrold Darm, a physician at the Aesthetic Medicine spa in Tigard, Oregon, is seeking $1 million in damages to his reputation against blogger Tiffany Craig, according to a report on the OregonLive.com Website.

According to the OregonLive account, the 62-year-old Darm's suit is based on June 2011, postings by the defendant in which she allegedly described him as "ubiquitous" because of his spa's extensive television advertising and allegedly alluded to a decade-old disciplinary action taken against Darm by the Oregon Medical Board ("OMB"). Darm alleges that the defendant posted that he sought sex in exchange for treatment.

Reportedly, Darm was reprimanded in 2001 for violating the state's Medical Practices Act and was subjected to an order mandating interviews with the probationary board, mental health reviews, mandatory enrollment in risk management and doctor boundaries courses and required chaperones when Darm saw female patients. The OMB lifted the order in 2009.

According to Darm's suit, the OMB-imposed discipline for an "inappropriate boundary violation" and for "unprofessional or dishonorable conduct," made no mention of sexual relations with patients as he alleged the defendant's blog and Twitter posts suggests. Craig's attorney in August filed a motion to dismiss the suit with the court under the state's anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute [ORS 31.150], which contends that the plaintiff's lawsuit infringes on Craig's First Amendment rights to address a matter of public concern. The defendant's counsel claims Craig's postings were substantially true and included a hyperlink to OMB documentation.

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