May 22, 2012
“Florida Plastic Surgeon Sues His Internet Critics”
Brendan McLaughlin, ABC Action News, Orlando, Florida
TAMPA – Whether you are looking for a good doctor, pool contractor or piano tuner, the internet has countless sites where you can get other people’s opinions.
But one plastic surgeon in Orlando decided comments posted about him on a ratings site for doctors were libelous and he’s suing the posters.
Dr. Armando Soto’s website has glowing testimonials from patients delighted with his surgical tucks, lifts, reductions and augmentations.
But look up Dr. Soto on RateMDs.com and you’ll get a different impression.
Some posters are full of praise saying Dr. Soto did “an amazing job.”
But another writer calls him “Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde, cold, uncaring and rude.”
Another complains that “the 9″ scars are horrific and I was charged for a procedure which two other surgeons have said was not done.”
Dr. Soto is suing these posters, who are not named in the lawsuit.
We asked Jay Wolfson of the University of South Florida’s Health department, who is a doctor and a lawyer, if these internet posters should be nervous.
“Consumers of goods and services, whether it’s plumbing services or breast augmentation, have an absolute freedom of speech right to express their opinions as to the character and quality of services and products they’ve received without fear of legal reprisal,” said Wolfson.
Dr. Wolfson points to websites like Angie’s List, set up specifically for people to share their experiences, good or bad. And while opinions are protected, direct accusations may not be.
“If I make a factual assertion about you that is going to put you in a false light and affect your position in the community or your income, then that’s what this is all about,” said Wolfson.
Dr. Soto is seeking $49,000 in damages from the defendants who are not yet named in any court documents. Proving those damages may not be easy, and Dr. Soto may, in the process be calling more negative attention to his practice.
“He’s probably contributed 90 percent to any damage that could be claimed by filing the lawsuit,” said Wolfson.