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May v. Greater Kansas City Dental Society
Missouri Court of Appeals
863 S.W.2d 941 (1993)
Dr. Joseph May (plaintiff) was a dentist in the Kansas City area. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sent an inquiry to other dentists in the area requesting information about the patients the dentists had referred to Dr. May. Dr. Robert Nelson (defendant), the president of the Greater Kansas City Dental Society (the dental society) (defendant), received the IRS inquiry and, several months later, published in the dental society’s journal an article entitled “For Whom the Bell Tolls, or Beware: The G-Man Cometh!” The article referred to an IRS investigation of a dentist but did not mention Dr. May by name. Dr. May brought an action for defamation against Dr. Nelson and the dental society, claiming that he lost patient referrals and had to close his practice because of the article. Dr. May objected specifically to the article’s use of the word “yo-yo,” claiming that it conveyed that he was unstable in his professional capacity. The word was used in a description of a call Dr. Nelson made to his attorney to obtain advice about whether to respond to the IRS inquiry and what the legal implications were of releasing patient information without consent. Dr. Nelson wrote that the attorney told him that he could petition the court, but “why mess with them for some yo-yo?” The court granted Dr. Nelson and the dental society’s motion to dismiss the defamation claim. Dr. May appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Hanna, J.)
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