Grieving Dr. Rosalind Griffin

It’s not exactly the newest game in town, as the cognoscenti have long appreciated the fact that lawyers are subject to professional oversight and discipline, and there is no downside to making a complaint against a lawyer. Any flaming asshole can do it.  The worst that happens is you get a nice lawyerly letter telling you that you’re a moron.

But a doc who does medical exams for insurance companies, which are humorously called “I.M.E.s,” for “independent” medical exams because insurance companies have better lobbies than plaintiff’s lawyers, has decided to use the grievance process to go after Michigan lawyer Steven Gursten for outing her.  Via Turk:

Now comes before us today one Dr. Rosalind Griffin, a Michigan psychiatrist, with a different tactic: Filing a grievance against lawyer Steven Gursten for blogging about a medical-legal exam that she did on one of his clients.

Gursten was so ticked off at Dr. Griffin, that he wrote about her.

And what did Griffin do that so offended Gursten? Glad you asked.

Dr. Rosalind Griffin, as seen during her video testimony in this matter.

He presented evidence that Dr. Griffin — who he said is “a rather notorious IME doctor here in Michigan” — was less than candid in her assessment.

Gursten asserts that this evidence disproves the doctor’s claim that the client said during the exam that his condition was improving, that the client had minor medical conditions, and despite “a closed-head injury, traumatic brain injury, abnormal memory and concentration, PTSD and a badly fractured and collapsed T12 vertebral body, as well as fractures to his mouth, shoulder and knee” that the client’s chronic pain actually came from a 30-year-old whiplash that had been asymptomatic.

Just a disagreement? Just the defendant’s view (because it’s anything but independent) versus the plaintiff’s?

“[A]ccording to his own statement he feels less depressed and is making progress.” (IME Report, Page 8)  “Q. What’s a good day for you? A. I don’t know. I haven’t had one lately. … I just have a profound sadness … Q. Do you think you’re depressed, sir? A. I do. … Q. Have you been tearful? A. Oh, yeah. I cry at the drop of a hat sometimes.”  (Fairley Dep., Page 58 (lines 1-2, 7), Page 61 (lines 13-14), Page 62 (lines 4-5))

That doesn’t look particularly kosher. As Paul Alan Levy at Public Citizen suggests, it really wouldn’t make for a good defamation suit under the circumstances.

Griffin’s complaint amounts to a lightweight defamation claim (lightweight because most of the quoted words are either not actually about Griffin or are opinion rather than facts, because Griffin does not spell out any other allegedly defamatory words as Michigan law would require, and because she says nothing about knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard of probable falsity).

It is therefore not surprising that Griffin did not file a defamation claim within the one-year statute of limitations.  Instead, six days after the statute expired, she chose to file this bare-bones grievance complaint, hoping that paid grievance staff will conduct an investigation for her, and force Gursten to spend his time and money responding to questions from public officials about his opinions about whether and how justice is afforded to accident victims and specifically how Griffin has or has not testified unfairly or unjustly.

If you can’t prevail in a defamation claim because it’s, well, true, there is always the backdoor of trying to make it too much of a hassle for a lawyer to out someone by filing a grievance instead. See how that works?  And it’s a thing now.

But if the lawyer disciplinary process seems like easy pickin’s to silence blawgers, the flip side is that we’re not particularly inclined to run scared, and we have this tendency not to take kindly to being extorted through the use of the grievance procedure to shut us up.

Has Dr. Rosalind Griffin ever heard of Barbra Streisand?  If she thought she had something to twist her face into a frown before, she’s really gonna hate what happens when her effort to use the disciplinary procedure to silence Gursten not only fails, but backfires big time.

14 comments on “Grieving Dr. Rosalind Griffin

  1. JAV

    A Google search now places this post and Mr. Gursten’s near the top of the list. A certain dudebro should be taking notes on how SEO really happens.

  2. Patrick Kane

    Good morning Scott:

    As you know, Florida allows depositions in criminal cases. A few years ago deputies from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office in Bradenton, Florida were threatening defense lawyers with bar complaints when they disapproved of the questions being asked in the depos. My recollection is that one grievance was actually filed.

      1. losingtrader

        “This is the life we chose”
        You mean wearing Armani suits and dining at 3 star Michelin restaurants.

  3. Keith

    Even if you were inclined to run scared, wouldn’t this still be a dead end street? Correct me if I’m wrong, but once you initiate a bar complaint, doesn’t the ethics rules make it a violation to condition the withdrawal of a complaint as part of a settlement? What’s the end game when you file one of these?

    1. SHG Post author

      You give people too much credit. They lash out to “get” the lawyers. There doesn’t have to be any more of an endgame than that.

    2. EH

      The end game is punishment.

      When you get a bar complaint, you have to report it to your insurer. And you have to deal with it.

      In the best case it will take up some of your time (and theirs) to stop it early; you need to respond, provide them with information, etc. Even then you have to report “I’ve been the subject of a bar complaint” which may affect your rates or insurance. Even if it’s a minor complaint, you’ll have at least one sleepless night.

      And if it is deemed something which requires attorney assistance, then you have to write your insurer a check (in the amount of your deductible) to cover the defense. Those initial funds are given to insurance defense counsel, who has every reason to be profligate; as a practical matter you can usually kiss them goodbye. You end up with more sleepless nights and you’re also out $2,500-10,000.

      1. SHG Post author

        Is there some reason you feel entitled to give half-baked (and mostly wrong) answers to questions on my blog? If anybody wanted to know what you think, they can always ask you. And no, this is not an invitation for you to leave another comment. Today. Ever.

      2. Sgt. Schultz

        I’m sorry. I already used up herp and derp today, so I have to actually say something. No lawyer with at least half a brain who gets a frivolous grievance calls his malpractice carrier, pays a deductible, (even assuming its covered by malpractice, which usually isn’t the case) or retains counsel, but just responds that it’s bullshit. It’s an annoyance, but let’s not make a wild and ridiculous big deal out of this. It’s an annoyance, but that’s all. And nobody loses sleep. Well, maybe you, but no grown up lawyer.

  4. rich123

    I wondered if you would write about this case. I am amazed they have Doctors on an Attorney Disciplinary committee.

    1. SHG Post author

      I do not take kindly to people using the attorney disciplinary process as a no-downside method of trying to silence lawyers. As for her being on a disciplinary committee, I can’t begin to understand how that could happen.

  5. Pingback: Doctor Tries To Take Down Lawyer’s Blog Post By Filing Grievance – updated | New York Personal Injury Law Blog

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