Northern Light Health and Eastern Maine Medical Center adv. Samson Cournane: 15-year-old Mainer Fights Hospital Conglomerate’s Attempt to Silence Him With Lawsuit Threat


Case Overview

Demand Letter

Samson Cournane is a 15-year-old student at the University of Maine and a patient-safety advocate. In July 2021, Northern Light Health’s Eastern Maine Medical Center fired his mother, a respected pediatric intensive care doctor, without cause after she raised concerns about pediatric-safety protocols. While Dr. Yered sought to resolve her wrongful termination claims without litigation, Samson decided to do his own research. He found troubling news articles and healthcare watchdog reports stating that Eastern Maine Medical Center lagged behind other Maine hospitals in patient safety. 

To address his concerns, in September 2022, he created a petition, started a twitter account, and submitted a letter to the editor of his college newspaper to advocate for an investigation and improved patient-safety standards.   

The hospital conglomerate responded by threatening a defamation suit against Dr. Yered based on Samson’s petition, tweets, and letter to the editor; falsely claiming, with zero evidence, that she “ghostwrote” Samson’s advocacy. Although meritless, the threat of defending against a costly defamation suit had the desired chilling effect: Samson ceased his advocacy. 

The threatened lawsuit would be a classic SLAPP or “strategic lawsuit against public participation.” In a SLAPP, an individual or entity drags a speaker into an expensive court proceeding to shut them up. It’s censorship by lawsuit.  

Now, with FIRE’s help, Samson is standing up for his right to speak out. 

On August 23, 2023, FIRE sent a letter on Samson’s behalf to Northern Light Health demanding the conglomerate retract its threat to sue over Samson’s First Amendment-protected advocacy. 

Case Team

James Jordan

James Jordan

Natilie Ekberg

Natalie Giannini

Paralegal and Litigation Project Manager