The world of civil litigation has gone high tech.
The first lawsuit of its kind in Oregon; a medical spa doctor from Tigard, Oregon is suing a blogger from Portland, Oregon, claiming one of her Twitter and blog posts defamed him and his practice.
The doctor is seeking $1 million in punitive damages as the case inches closer and closer to being addressed in a Portland courtroom.
However, the journalist claims the blog and Twitter post does not unjustly malign the doctor, rather, chronicles events that actually happened and that the doctor is trying to keep people from talking about.
The online postings centered on a scandal the doctor was involved with in 2000. At that time, the doctor agreed to treat a woman for spider veins after hours at his clinic. Once he delivered treatment, he allegedly kissed and touched the woman and said the sexual contact could serve as payment for his services.
The doctor was found in violation of the Medical Practices Act in 2001 for the incident and had to follow a series of restrictions when practicing medicine. Some of these included having a chaperone around when treating adult woman and frequent interviews with state board probationers. These sanctions were lifted in 2009.
However, the woman being sued posted that this is an incident the doctor has become known for.
The journalist and her lawyer filed a motion under Oregon's anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation law. By doing this, the woman is claiming the doctor is only suing her because he wants her to stop talking about the incident, even though it could be considered a public issue.
One of the main arguments to the case is whether the doctor's past is a matter of public interest. Calling him a high-profile doctor, the journalist and her lawyer argue his record is a matter of public interest.
Twitter libel lawsuits have been filed around the country, but none of them have gone to trial yet. This case could set a precedent.
Source: Oregon Live, "Oregon's first Twitter libel lawsuit pits Tigard doctor against Portland blogger," Sally Ho, Oct. 10, 2011