Oregon's first Twitter libel lawsuit pits Tigard doctor against Portland blogger

TIGARD -- A million dollars, a modern twist on an old legal issue and, potentially, hundreds of millions of Twitter users around the world -- it's all part of Oregon's first possible Twitter libel lawsuit, moving toward a courtroom showdown in Portland later this month.  

Portland blogger Tiffany Craig is facing a $1 million lawsuit from Tigard medical spa doctor Jerrold "Jerry" Darm, after she blogged and tweeted about his practice. The suit filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court in July claims Craig defamed Darm on her Twitter account and blog.

In the June postings, Craig called Darm, 62, "ubiquitous" for a television commercial advertising his Tigard-based medical spa, Aesthetic Medicine. Citing a 10-year-old order against the doctor by Oregon's Medical Board, Craig wrote, in part, that the doctor tried to get sex in exchange for treatment.

Darm was reprimanded in 2001 for a violation of the Medical Practices Act, citing"unprofessional or dishonorable conduct." A state board investigation into a complaint found that Darm agreed to treat a patient's spider veins for free after closing time at his clinic in 2000. After treatment, Darm kissed and touched the patient and inferred the contact would be payment, according to a stipulated order that said the conduct was "an inappropriate boundary violation." It does not mention sex.

The stipulated order held Darm to restrictions to continue his practice, including required chaperones to see female adult patients, probationer interviews with the state board, mental health reviews, and courses on doctor-patient boundaries and risk management. The order was terminated in 2009. The Lake Oswego man says he is a former emergency room doctor.

Craig's lawyer, Linda Williams, filed a motion in August under Oregon's anti-SLAPP laws to get the case dismissed. SLAPP, or Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, suits are recognized as threats or attempts to shut down speech on public issues by the heavy burden of a lawsuit itself.  

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