Judge v. Doc – Settled

By Vic Fleming

Something happened recently that cries out for me to get a column from it. I got an email from a friend with a link to a “health column” in a ski resort town newspaper somewhere in these United States. The column’s author was a doctor with a clinic in the ski village.

The column started, “Stem cell therapy is minimally invasive” – words to that effect. It went on to say something like “Noteworthy athletes who’ve had it include Kobe Bryant and Peyton Manning.” Then it said that in a recent “article … Vic Fleming, a judge from Little Rock, has documented his success with a stem cell procedure.” There followed a quotation from my column earlier this year in which I updated the world on my platelet-rich plasma injection of two years ago.

The health column ended with a note that the writer offers stem cell therapy in his clinic. So, where’s the beef? How can I complain about being written up with Peyton and Kobe?!

Since the column touted the business of the doctor who wrote it, I felt that, at a minimum, it would have been appropriate to get my permission before using my name and quoting me. A casual reader might infer that the column’s author had treated me and that, through my “article,” I was endorsing his practice. Also, while stem cells are in PRP, I don’t think of my injection as stem cell therapy.

After sleeping on it, I called the doc in the ski village, leaving a message on his voice mail. My call was returned in short order. In a low-key manner, I told the doc that while Kobe, Peyton, and I would make a formidable three-on-three basketball or football team, I believed that he should have asked my permission before running that column.

I was hardly prepared for his response. “You’re absolutely right,” he said. “I screwed up. I take full responsibility and I will either pull the column in full or pull the paragraph about you as soon as possible – whichever you want.”

We then had a nice chat. He’d recognized my name from the voice mail, reread his column and pulled up my column. He allowed as how his column had been mostly the work of a PR firm, but he’d approved it and thought my story had been as fully vetted as the stories about Kobe and Peyton – who, he said, had different procedures than me.

An hour later the paragraph about me was gone from the online version of the column. A few thousand hard copies are, presumably, now in recycle bins in and around the resort village. I marveled that a person against whom I’d stated a complaint had responded not with a defense but a concession and a full apology. How regrettable that this is so rare.

The matter fully settled, I boasted about it at lunch today with my lawyers. Who immediately chastised me for not demanding a four-day weekend settlement conference in the ski village, with them and me present – at the doc’s PR firm’s expense. I made them pay for lunch.

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.