Doctor Sues Website For Defamation, After Being Convicted For Hitting Diver With His Boat

from the insult-to-injury? dept

A couple of years ago, there was a boating accident, in which a boat driven by Roger Nicosia, an emergency room physician, hit a diver in the water, Robert Murphy, leading Murphy to lose both his legs. In an ensuing lawsuit, Nicosia was found guilty of violating navigational rules, a second-degree misdemeanor, and sentenced to a small fine and six-months probation. Rather than moving on, Nicosia is fighting back against some of his online critics, as he’s suing a bunch of them — and a website they use — for libel. The article does not indicate what statements were actually made, but a quick search on the website — — turns up many forum posts about Dr. Nicosia, many of which include angry statements, some of which may be defamatory. What surprises me, however, is the decision to sue It would seem, as an open forum, that the site operator has pretty strong Section 230 defenses. That doesn’t absolve the individuals’ comments, if they are defamatory, but suing the site itself seems to be going a bit far. Separately, does this doctor really want to call more attention to himself and this whole situation?

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Comments on “Doctor Sues Website For Defamation, After Being Convicted For Hitting Diver With His Boat”

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Kenny (user link) says:

Threatened with legal action too?

I run a site called The Weekly Gripe and as I’m sure you can imagine it’s often quite controversial. Whilst I’m very careful with the article text on Gripes I publish sometimes the visitor comments, which are quite often negative about a company or individual, will get the site into a bit of trouble. It really irritates me though when something slips through the moderation process and the first thing you hear from a company is a threat to send in the lawyers. What ever happened to “please can you remove that post because it’s defamatory?”.

average_joe says:

I haven’t read the complaint, and I don’t know exactly how these things work, but I can think of two reasons for suing the site. One reason to make the site a party to the suit would be because the site is the only party who could supply information to help identify the posters who made the allegedly defamatory postings. A subpoena could be used to get the same result, but that brings up the second reason–unless the site is a party to the suit, the court cannot order the site to remove the postings that are determined to be defamatory.

Section 230 protects the site from liability, but does it also mean the site cannot be named as a party to the suit? If so, that seems to me to be a Catch-22. How else could you get the site to remove the offending material?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Section 230 protects the site from liability, but does it also mean the site cannot be named as a party to the suit?


With a few small exceptions (Roommates). Eric Goldman and Paul Alan Levy have discussed this in various places.

How else could you get the site to remove the offending material?

See our recent discussion on Ripoff Report.

NullOp says:

Law Suit

The suit is somewhat frivolous being the doc was convicted. But, if defamation is involved that is another story. The doc is protected under law from defamation as we all are, at least theoretically. Law does favor those with money!!! The best of this is the doc was convicted and sentenced. Isn’t that how the law works? If the sentence was “too light” then someone should reference the law and see that there are guidelines for punishments. We can’t just throw the doc in a meat-grinder as punishment because he’s a doc. The law is the law, it’s not about justice, it’s not about fair….it’s just the law.

Rose M. Welch (profile) says:

Re: Law Suit

Nicosia was convicted for the hit-and-run, but he has not received any sanctions for his actions afterward. In case you didn’t read the site (You had to do a search first. :P), Dr. Nicosia, an emergency room physician, stood and watched his now legless victim hauled out of the water, ignored shouts for medical help, declined to answer police when they asked if anyone aboard his boat had medical experience, and then left. Seriously. Quite frankly, that’s despicable and I applaud the efforts of the commenters who are gathering signatures for a petition to Florida’s medical board.

DiveGal says:

What can I say...

Except this guy should have HIS legs cut off and see how HE likes it! Sorry… wrong country.

Seriously, he is suing the other divers that were in the water and posted their side of the story on a public forum. I thought that we lived in a country of free speach. Everything said on SpearBoard is true. I sat at the hearings and feel that he should have had a greater punishment placed upon him for what he did to that diver.

NetDoc (profile) says:

In my opinion, this is clear censorship by litigation. There was a tech-dirt discussion earlier this year about my site being sued by a live-a-board fatality. That litigation is still pending and it’s my opinion that their primary focus is to quell the truth about what happened and why. The posters on SpearBoard and all divers in general have a right to be angry about what happened that day. They have a right to voice their opinion about the incident and the safe harbor laws are there to protect the site from such frivolous law suits. Unfortunately, the safe harbor laws don’t have any teeth to bite the hand that tries to circumvent them. In karmic irony, these suits which seem designed to remove blame and rehabilitate a person’s reputation, have the exact negative results. Only the lawyers get richer as their name gets dragged through the mud on a far larger scale.

FWIW, Ms Welch, as bad as the actions you portrayed seem after the accident, you got some facts wrong, it’s worse than you think. This is what I understand the facts to be: The boat was on auto-pilot. It is thought that the Dr was texting or otherwise distracted. When he finally saw the Diver Down Flag, instead of dropping to idle speed, he sped up and turned his boat, right over Rob. He did not at any time reduce speed, but fled the scene, watching the rescue unfold behind him. He did not make any distress calls, he rendered no aid but he did have his lawyer meet him at the dock. At some point it’s alleged that he even attempted to erase his GPS.

I am not sure why the Coast Guard did not also prosecute. It would appear that many maritime laws were flagrantly broken before and during this mishap. Causing a collision, leaving the scene of an accident, not rendering aid are among many he should have been charged with, IMHO.

My wishes go out to Tony, SpearBoard and the other litigants: I hope you prevail. Also to Rob: I hope we dive together again soon. Your demeanor through out all of this has been amazingly heroic.

sskeysdiver (profile) says:

Dr. and dive accident

This doctor has a long line of people to add to the suit if he is going to sue everyone that said he is a jerk or an ass*ole. If thats the case then, Dr. add me to the list.
I think the actions of leaving anyone in a medical distress is unthinkable and this guy is a trauma doctor – go figure!

Maybe – just maybe – whatever $$ this doctor should collect, if he is able to, will ultimately go to Rob when he wins his civil lawsuit.

Wouldn’t you think that an average person who has caused such damage to someone, as well as those that were around him that day, would have some sort of remorse and feel really bad and want to help Rob out?

Of course, this is all my opinion. It is fact, however, that the doctor cut Rob’s legs off and left him.

Barb says:

Spearboard Lack of Oversight

Spearboard does not moderate the site at all. They allow people to call each other really ugly and insulting names, way worse than anyone would ever call someone to their face) and libel people without editing or removing postings. I hope they lose the suit, because they clearly show favoritism in whose comments they allow to be posted, and whose they don’t.
They also completely ignore requests to moderate libelous or profane name calling postings.

Barb says:

Just the Facts Ma'am

PS: Unless any of you were actually at the scene of the accident, how do you know that what you’re reading about this doctor, is the truth? We all know from the dog and pony show that is our political system, that anyone can make anything look any way they want it to look, just by how they frame it, but that doesn’t mean its the truth. One thing that was beaten into me both in undergrad as well as graduate school is, look at the source. Whatever you read may or may not be true, one needs to look at the source of the information, before making judgments.

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