Monday, July 02, 2007

Hospital blog suit worth watching.....7/6

Staff reports
The Paris News

Published July 1, 2007

In what may prove to be a very interesting and perhaps precedent-setting case, Essent Healthcare has filed suit in 62nd District Court against unknown bloggers contending a blog — — has defamed Paris Regional Medical Center. The suit also alleges bloggers are breaking the law by releasing patient confidential information.

One of the aspects of this case that make it so interesting is that Essent, the hospital's parent company, doesn't know exactly who they are suing. Thus, they have asked 62nd District Judge Scott McDowell to compel cable Internet service provider Suddenlink to disclose known mailing addresses of 10 bloggers. The clock is ticking on the 20-day deadline the judge gave the ISP to provide the information.

We offer no opinion on the merits of the case nor the judge's order, but express interest in several aspects of each. First, we take interest in whether a media provider such as an ISP should be compelled to reveal the names of subscribers who have obviously sought to be anonymous. Second, we are interested in the responsibility of third parties with regard to the release of patient confidential information.

While we watch these aspects of the case with interest, we express our opinion about responsible blogging without taking a position on material published on .

Everyone has a First Amendment right to free speech, whether that speech is published in traditional media — like this newspaper or a radio broadcast — or new media — like a Web site or blog. However, free speech is not unbridled. With free speech comes responsibility. As the old example goes, you can't yell fire in a crowded theater unless there really is a fire.

Essent argues bloggers published "false and misleading statements with malice, with reckless disregard for truth or falsity and with negligence in failing to ascertain the truth of the statement."

We do not suggest whether those allegations are true or false, but we do believe those who operate blogs have a responsibility to ensure that published material is not false, misleading with malice or recklessly disregards truth. Free speech standards must the same for all material published or broadcast, regardless of the media.

One thing about blogs that concerns us is the use of pseudonyms. With rare exception, we believe speech should be tied to a real name. When expressing an opinion, not just stating facts, we find no exception. That's why we don't publish anonymous letters in this newspaper.

There are a number of Paris-related blogs on the Internet, where opinions about everything from the hospital to city hall and local nightlife are expressed. Our hope is that the suit filed by Essent does not have a chilling effect on these blogs. It is important to have such forums in our techno-savvy world. However, it also is our hope that those who operate these blogs will do so in a responsible manner where the goal is truth without malice.

By the way, we hit world wide web status a while ago. Blogspot registred us. So is appropriate....frank


Anonymous said...

This is a wuss editorial. "We offer no opinion"? Please. Keep calling them The Snooze.

Anonymous said...

If it looks like a donkey, brays like a donkey, smells like a donkey and you call it a jackass does that count as slander?
What's been said on this blogsite is the truth--one which A$$ent wishes no one knew about!!!

Anonymous said...

Go to the Fox News website ( and select any of their shows--O'Reilly, Hannity, Fox & Friends, etc. Down in the lower left side of your screen is a small box where Fox News solicits news tips. Type in the blog's address and tell 'em what's happening. Some national attention should help this out.

Anonymous said...

1:26 PM posting........

Done, done and done. Hopefully others will inundate that same small screen. Perhaps if enough folks do the same, perhaps it WILL get some national attention. Pretty well deserved if you ask me as well.

So comment away, and post a request on that little corner, will only take a few minutes, and might very well get the attention we need.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know who provides the cable services to PRMC??

I would think that whoever is...Suddenlink, making a chunk of change from that account.

Could this be part of the reason for the stone cold silence from Suddenlink Communications in regards to releasing the IP addresses?

I wonder what kind of conflict of interest this might be...

Anonymous said...

Only thing that's proven from that is that they will take care of themselves before their customers.

Did we have doubts?

Anonymous said...

Doubts? None at all. I used to think that Human Indifference would be the fatal flaw that kills all mankind. Now I know it's Greed. Corporations only think of the bottom line and how much profit they can generate. To heck with integrity. Out goes pride in skills and craftmanship. To heck with employees--old or new. To heck with every decent emotion and principle. Just make that moolah.

$uddenLink doesn't seem to be any different than E$$ent in that way.

Anonymous said...

How familiar do you think Wes Tidwell is with the legal term "Barratry":

n. creating legal business by stirring up disputes and quarrels, generally for the benefit of the lawyer who sees fees in the matter. Barratry is illegal in all states and subject to criminal punishment and/or discipline by the state bar, but there must be a showing that the resulting lawsuit was totally groundless.

If ever a lawsuit is groundless, this is the one.

Does Mr Tidwell know how far he is sticking his neck out for E$$ENT??

Anonymous said...

Paris Regional Medical Center Puts a Blogger Critic on a "Monkey Trial"
by hippocrates | Sat, 06/30/2007 - 11:26am | permalink
post a comment | comments (2) | trackbacks (0)
Featured in: HippocratesNot everyone (yet) in healthcare understands that suing bloggers is futile. Paris Regional is fighting fire with gasoline!
The news has been out for a week or so. Rural Texas hospital finally sues anonymous blogger that criticized it for over two years. Hospital impact has a highlight and comments from anonyblogger over the last two years.

Now, why would I compare this to the famous Monkey Trial?

Well, both are about (ahem) certain elements in small-town America that are well behind times. Which is not enough for them. They have to have their day in court to prove it and let the whole world know! Back in 1925 it was about teaching this crazy thing called evolution. Now it is about blogger's freedom of speech.

What exactly is Paris Regional accusing the blogger of?

Quoting iHealthBeat's interpretation of the complaint, which also includes claims of HIPAA violations:

Paris Regional Medical Center alleges that on several occasions the blog posted "false and misleading statements with malice." According to the lawsuit, the blogger falsely accused the hospital of criminal wrongdoing in operating and managing the hospital, including Medicare fraud. The hospital added that the statements were aimed to and did harm the hospital's reputation and discouraged business.

The bloggers claimed to receive their information from hospital employees, a contractual breach of the employee labor confidentiality agreement, according to the hospital.

Well, I have news for the lawyers and executives of Essent Healthcare, the parent company of Paris Regional Medical Center. There is plenty of "false and misleading" information on the Internet. You cannot control it, unlike local small-town newspapers and elected trial court judges.

Learn to live with the fact than anyone, anytime and anywhere can say anything they want on the Internet about anyone

What Essent trigger-happy lawyers are doing is attracting national attention and giving credence to allegations of wrongdoing and fraud. To prove that those statements are false you have to prove they are not fact. So why not invite Medicare to look at the books and then publish results of inspection that found nothing wrong? Because otherwise you are just stirring up the publicity that puts pressure on CMS to actually investigate !

Worried you are losing control of your reputation? Well, did you ever have it? Reputation is what others (not you) think and say about you. Now with the Internet every voice will be heard and there is nowhere to hide.

Now about the HIPAA and breach of contract claims

These of course could be more serious - if they were real. As far as HIPAA goes I have not seen what the real breach of patient confidentiality is here. HIPAA is always bandied around as an excuse for just about anything, but only a handful of cases (really flagrant ones) went anywhere. Regarding business confidentiality, maybe there is a legal case here, but leaks occur in every large organization every day and as Hewlett-Packard boardroom saga has shown trying to fight them too hard could really boomerang back at you.

The Prognosis: If Essent presses ahead with litigation, their best-case scenario is Pyrrhic victory, which is really a loss

The allegations are out there already. Nothing short of addressing their substance would help. If a blogger is uncovered and fired, his (her) attacks would only escalate. Sympathetic employees would only have more motivation to keep the leaks flowing. Litigious executives would win no friends.

Like the Monkey Trial, this case is driven by irrationality. Watching the old world of control slip away and being powerless to stop it.

Anonymous said...

Nice comparison there. But as you know Scopes lost that trial even though it proved to America that a bunch of hicks were just that. I fear PRMC employees may pay a high price to prove that Essent is run by the same sort of hicks.

Anonymous said...

To the Snooze: Anonymous comments give people the freedom to speak their minds without fear of reprisal. You seem to be like the Essent boys and want to hurt people anyway.

James Morgan - Puritan Financial Advisor said...

Thus, they have asked 62nd District Judge Scott McDowell to compel cable Internet service provider Suddenlink to disclose known mailing addresses of 10 bloggers. The clock is ticking on the 20-day deadline the judge gave the ISP to provide the information.