Delaware Online: When Web Reviews Lead To Lawsuits

MARCH 21, 2013

“When Web Reviews Lead To Lawsuits”

Ken Paulson, Delaware Online

When a Minnesota man felt his family was treated shabbily by a neurologist, he made sure the world knew about it.

Dennis Laurion posted caustic reviews of Minnesota neurologist David McKee, saying he was insensitive to his father’s needs and claiming that a nurse called the doctor “a real tool.” This angered McKee, who offered his own prescription: a libel suit.

The Minnesota Supreme Court found that the critical comments were protected under the First Amendment as free speech because they were just an opinion and mere vituperation and dismissed the case.

Source

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Web Posting

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Patient Complaint

Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply To Patient Complaint

Plaintiff David McKee’s Cease And Desist Letter To Defendant Dennis Laurion

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Complaint To Minnesota Board Of Medical Practice

Plaintiff David McKee’s Complaint To Sixth Judicial District Duluth Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Response To Minnesota Board Of Medical Practice

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Answer To Plaintiff David McKee’s Complaint

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Motion For Summary Judgment

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Deposition Extracts

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Circumstances Before Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Circumstances After Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony In Response To Questions By Marshall Tanick

Affidavits By Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Parents

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Supplemental Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Motion To Oppose Summary Judgment

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Reply Memo In Support Of Motion For Summary Judgment

Sixth Judicial District Court’s Order On Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Appeal Of Order On Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Minnesota Court Of Appeals Order To Strike Portion Of Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply Brief

Minnesota Court Of Appeals Announces Decision

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Petition For Review By Minnesota Supreme Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Opposition To Review By Minnesota Supreme Court

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Reply Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Minnesota Supreme Court Decision On David McKee MD V. Dennis K. Laurion

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2010

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2011

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2012

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2013

McKee V Laurion Is A Textbook Case

Bemidji Pioneer: Minnesota High Court Says Online Post Legally Protected

January 30, 2013

“Minnesota High Court Says Online Post Legally Protected”

Bemidji Pioneer

MINNEAPOLIS – The Minnesota Supreme Court says a man’s online post calling a doctor “a real tool” is protected speech.

The high court on Wednesday dismissed a case by Duluth neurologist David McKee, who took offense when a patient’s son posted critical remarks about him on some rate-your-doctor websites. Those included a claim that a nurse called the doctor “a real tool.”

The justices say the comments posted by Dennis Laurion don’t add up to defamation. They say referring to someone as “a real tool” is a protected statement of opinion that can’t be the basis of a defamation claim. They also say it doesn’t matter whether the unnamed nurse actually exists.

The decision reverses a Minnesota Court of Appeals decision that would have let the doctor’s lawsuit proceed to trial.

Source

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Web Posting

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Patient Complaint

Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply To Patient Complaint

Plaintiff David McKee’s Cease And Desist Letter To Defendant Dennis Laurion

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Complaint To Minnesota Board Of Medical Practice

Plaintiff David McKee’s Complaint To Sixth Judicial District Duluth Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Response To Minnesota Board Of Medical Practice

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Answer To Plaintiff David McKee’s Complaint

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Motion For Summary Judgment

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Deposition Extracts

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Circumstances Before Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Circumstances After Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony In Response To Questions By Marshall Tanick

Affidavits By Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Parents

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Supplemental Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Motion To Oppose Summary Judgment

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Reply Memo In Support Of Motion For Summary Judgment

Sixth Judicial District Court’s Order On Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Appeal Of Order On Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Minnesota Court Of Appeals Order To Strike Portion Of Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply Brief

Minnesota Court Of Appeals Announces Decision

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Petition For Review By Minnesota Supreme Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Opposition To Review By Minnesota Supreme Court

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Reply Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Minnesota Supreme Court Decision On David McKee MD V. Dennis K. Laurion

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2010

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2011

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2012

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2013

McKee V Laurion Is A Textbook Case

Physician Rating Web Sites: Ethical Implications

August 23, 2015

“Physician Rating Web Sites: Ethical Implications”

Julie Balch Samora, MD, PhD; Scott D. Lifchez, MD; Philip E. Blazar, MD; The American Society for Surgery of the Hand Ethics and Professionalism Committee

There are currently more than 60 physician rating Web sites. In an analysis of 4,999 online physician ratings, the 10 most commonly visited PRWs were found to be HealthGrades.com, Vitals.com, Yelp.com, YP.com, RevolutionHealth.com, RateMD.com, AngiesList.com, Checkbook.org, Kudzu.com, and ZocDoc.com. Yelp and Healthgrades appear to be the most trusted Web sites by patients. Three respondents specifically mentioned Yelp as a Web site that had an algorithm that tended to highlight negative reviews. Many of these Web sites had not contacted the physician, office, or hospital for permission to report or requested any data from the rated entities. Online information may misrepresent background information, qualifications, or professional performance. Only 4 of the 8 busiest PRWs were found to have accessible and reliable data pertaining to orthopedic surgeons in a major metropolitan region. In this study, there was insufficient user-generated content, lack of an orthopedic surgery designation, or a high rate of incomplete submissions.

There are many ethical questions that arise with the creation and expansion of PRWs. Physicians and professional organizations have argued that they have been misrepresented by PRWs and that they have been abused by angry patients or competing practices. A systematic review performed by Emmert et al found the major shortcomings of PRWs to be incomplete databases, few ratings, unstructured patient opinions, lack of a reference standard for surveys, lack of validity of scoring systems, data that do not reflect the actual quality of the physician, potential for abuse due to anonymity, inability of physicians to respond to negative reviews, and lack of evidence of effects on physician performance or patient outcomes. We found many of our respondents felt that they had also been misrepresented by PRWs, with 62% of respondents observing inaccuracies in their online profiles, and 53% receiving a critical comment about their practice that was objectively false.

There is evidence suggesting manipulation. Most rating sites do not require authentication of raters. Some physicians have posted reviews about themselves, which both undermines the validity of these sites and demonstrates deficient ethics of the providers who wrote their own reviews. None of our respondents acknowledged posting positive reviews about themselves. However, 1 respondent reported an investigation that found that a negative comment had been posted by a local competitor.

In a study of online reviews of 500 urologists, the composite rating was based on scores from an average of 2.4 submitted ratings. One-sixth of practicing U.S. physicians received at least 1 rating on RateMD in 2010. Because there are so few ratings, 1 low score could potentially lead to a severely low overall rating. Several respondents felt that the small sampling of reviews cannot possibly lead to accurate evaluations.

Most ratings have been found to be generally positive. Nonetheless, one-third of the current survey respondents had asked satisfied patients to submit reviews. Ethically, this practice raises questions. It is not clear whether this is simply the online equivalent of asking satisfied patients to refer their friends or if it crosses an ethical line, because adding more positive ratings will dilute the impact of negative ratings. Is there an obligation or expectation to solicit ratings from all patients or a representative cross-section? There are physicians who are actually handing out comment cards that can later be posted to PRWs. Apparently, there are also companies that directly contact physicians and physician offices with offers to improve ratings for a fee.

Regardless of the incomplete databases, few reviews, and lack of validity, a national survey found that 35% of respondents selected a physician based on good ratings on PRWs and 37% had avoided a physician based on bad ratings. Almost 40% of our respondents felt that the Web sites changed referral patterns. However, only 17% of respondents felt that PRWs had direct negative effects on their practice. Many open-ended responses reflected that respondents truly had no understanding what effects ratings produce.

One of the dilemmas as a treating physician who receives an undesirable rating is the relative inability to provide feedback. When responding to negative reviews, patient anonymity must be protected and remain in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Oftentimes, there is no opportunity for rebuttal, because patient confidentiality must be maintained.

There have been lawsuits filed by physicians who felt they had suffered damages from reviews. Dr. David McKee, a neurologist from Duluth, MN, sued Dennis Laurion, the son of a former patient, alleging that statements Laurion published online defamed him. In McKee v. Laurion, 2013, the Minnesota Supreme Court found that Dennis Laurion had the right to call Dr. McKee a “tool.” The laws of defamation generally favor those individuals who post the untoward comments, because freedom of speech is privileged. If there are no specific details provided and the posts are generally subjective and mere generalities, the writer is protected by law. Even Web site operators are often immune to lawsuits.

It is expected that PRWs will play a major role in health care in the future. The National Health Service in the United Kingdom has encouraged patients to rate their general practitioners through a National Health Service–run Web site. It is unclear whether there will be a uniform reporting system in the United States or whether these online ratings will influence patient-referral patterns or quality improvement.

In 2012, the Affordable Care Act implemented a policy to withhold funds from hospitals that do not have high patient-satisfaction scores. Two-thirds of poorly performing hospitals (with higher numbers of readmissions, complications, and death) had highly satisfied patients based on Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems scores. In a prospective cohort study, patients who reported being the most satisfied with their medical care actually had higher health care and prescription costs, higher odds of inpatient admissions, and higher mortality rates than patients who were not as satisfied. We may witness the development of a similar policy for individual providers.

Providers have started to take a more active role in the development and management of PRWs. The California Orthopaedic Association contacted Healthgrades with the goal of improving accuracy of information, subspecialty information, and personalized practice information. It is early in the process, but Healthgrades did make major changes to its review site, even creating a section to enable physicians to input personalized information about their practice. Similarly, the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality, a nonprofit coalition of health systems, medical groups, hospitals, and health plans, has voluntarily collected and provided information to Consumer Reports. These data are the foundation for ratings in this region.

The main limitation of this study is the low response rate of 12%. These data, therefore, may not accurately represent the views of the entire ASSH membership.

Professional organizations such as the ASSH have the opportunity to take an active role in online physician rating. Well-developed PRWs can provide both qualitative and quantitative feedback and new insights on the perceptions of patients. Some of the opportunities suggested to reduce bias and harm to physicians include making the ratings first available when they have reached a certain minimum number, which may thereby reduce the impact of extreme opinions. Furthermore, assuring accuracy of information, providing physicians the opportunity to respond to negative comments, and enabling the removal of fraudulent posts will be of paramount importance to ensure factual data. We suggest that in the near future, professional societies will play a more active role in the area of online physician rating and recommend the creation of a task force within our societies to assess the development, management, implications, and ramifications of PRWs.

There are multiple ethical conundrums that PRWs pose, which will need to be more fully evaluated. Providers should take an active role in the creation and implementation of quality PRWs so as to ensure quality and accuracy of information.

Source

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Web Posting

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Patient Complaint

Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply To Patient Complaint

Plaintiff David McKee’s Cease And Desist Letter To Defendant Dennis Laurion

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Complaint To Minnesota Board Of Medical Practice

Plaintiff David McKee’s Complaint To Sixth Judicial District Duluth Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Response To Minnesota Board Of Medical Practice

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Answer To Plaintiff David McKee’s Complaint

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Motion For Summary Judgment

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Deposition Extracts

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Circumstances Before Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Circumstances After Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony In Response To Questions By Marshall Tanick

Affidavits By Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Parents

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Supplemental Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Motion To Oppose Summary Judgment

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Reply Memo In Support Of Motion For Summary Judgment

Sixth Judicial District Court’s Order On Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Appeal Of Order On Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Minnesota Court Of Appeals Order To Strike Portion Of Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply Brief

Minnesota Court Of Appeals Announces Decision

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Petition For Review By Minnesota Supreme Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Opposition To Review By Minnesota Supreme Court

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Reply Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Minnesota Supreme Court Decision On David McKee MD V. Dennis K. Laurion

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2010

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2011

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2012

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2013

McKee V Laurion Is A Textbook Case

John Washam: Oregon Dentist Sues Patient For $300,000 For Bad Online Review

SEPTEMBER 2, 2012

“Oregon Dentist Sues Patient For $300,000 For Bad Online Review”

John Washam, Talk To The Manager

Dr. Mo Saleh, dentist, is suing a patient for $300,000, stating that the review his patient, Spencer Bailey, posted on Yelp is costing his business $100,000 a week.

Bailey now has a lawyer and an expensive court battle ahead of him after his fallout with Dr. Saleh who works at Optima Dental in Lake Oswego.

Bailey suspected he was getting questionable care. “I had never had a cavity before I set foot in his office,” he said. “He told me the day that I saw him that I had 10 or so cavities, which threw me for a loop – I was nervous that I had some other health problem.”

Bailey said three weeks after he posted his review, Dr. Saleh demanded Bailey take down the posting or be sued. Bailey said he removed it immediately. “In hindsight it didn’t matter, because even though I took down the opinion online, I’m still right here,” he said.

This type of lawsuit is not new, and we expect to see more in the future. Such lawsuits expose the legal struggle between free speech and responsible speech, meaning that these reviews can damage business’ reputations.

Source

Dentist Mo Saleh

Dentist Lawsuits

Doctor Lawsuits

KATU News: Dentist Loses Suit After Former Patient Criticizes Him Online

SEPTEMBER 27, 2012

“Dentist Loses Suit After Former Patient Criticizes Him Online”

Lincoln Graves, KATU News

A judge decided the critical comments made on review site YELP.com and other sites were free speech.

“I’m disgusted. I’m actually really disgusted,” said dentist Mo Saleh, who tried to sue his former client, Spencer Bailey, for defamation after finding negative reviews on the Internet. “The reason I’m risking opportunity and risking this negative exposure is because I feel that this is wrong.”

But a judge threw out the suit before it got very far.

“When we walked into this courtroom, we didn’t walk on equal footing because of the Anti-SLAPP law,” Saleh said. The “SLAPP” in the Anti-SLAPP law stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.

Businesses can sometimes file those suits to quiet criticism. But the Anti-SLAPP law can be a friend to those who are taken to court, giving them free speech protection when they make comments in a public forum and concern a public interest, which a site like YELP seeks to serve.

“It’s not easy to be sued and dragged into court,” said Jeremiah Ross, the attorney who represented Bailey. “Just as we anticipated, they couldn’t prove their case because it wasn’t a defamatory statement.”

Still, Saleh may appeal, believing the online criticism was meant to harm him and not simply to inform the public. “I teach my kids to stand up when you’ve been wronged, and I think that’s absolutely disgusting what happened today,” he said.

One of the comments Bailey was accused of making was, “If Saleh finds a cavity, get a second opinion and get it filled by someone else.”

Saleh was seeking $300,000 in damages.

Source, KATU

Source, KOMO News

Source, KVAL

Dentist Mo Saleh

Dentist Lawsuits

Doctor Lawsuits

Brian Deon Brown: “Real Tool” and Other Comments About Doctor Are Not Defamatory

FEBRUARY 16, 2014

” ‘Real Tool’ and Other Comments About Doctor Are Not Defamatory”

Brian Deon Brown, Exclusive Rights To Use

Online statements to various “rate your doctor” websites” as well as letters sent to “medically-affiliated institutions” “of and concerning” a doctor’s bedside manner or lack thereof, were recently found not defamatory by the Minnesota Supreme Court in Mckee vs. Laurion.   As a result, the Minnesota Supreme Court had no problem reversing a January 23, 2012 Court of Appeals decision to deny the defendant’s motion for summary in  McKee v. Laurion, No. A11-1154, 2012 WL 177371 (Minn. App. Jan. 23, 2012).

In the Supreme Court’s view, none of the defendant’s comments  had any “defamatory meaning” and on their own, were substantially accurate depictions of the doctor’s statements to his patient or were the type of vague communication incapable of being proven true or false under the circumstances.   Thus, it’s ok, at least in Minnesota, to describe your doctor or medical professional to others as a “real tool” or to comment truthfully on his or her rude/insensitive behavior during the course of an examination.

Source

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Web Posting

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Patient Complaint

Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply To Patient Complaint

Plaintiff David McKee’s Cease And Desist Letter To Defendant Dennis Laurion

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Complaint To Minnesota Board Of Medical Practice

Plaintiff David McKee’s Complaint To Sixth Judicial District Duluth Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Response To Minnesota Board Of Medical Practice

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Answer To Plaintiff David McKee’s Complaint

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Motion For Summary Judgment

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Deposition Extracts

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Circumstances Before Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony About Circumstances After Encounter With Laurion Family

Plaintiff David McKee’s Deposition Testimony In Response To Questions By Marshall Tanick

Affidavits By Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Parents

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Supplemental Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Motion To Oppose Summary Judgment

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Reply Memo In Support Of Motion For Summary Judgment

Sixth Judicial District Court’s Order On Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Appeal Of Order On Motion For Summary Judgment

Plaintiff David McKee’s Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply Brief To Minnesota Court Of Appeals

Minnesota Court Of Appeals Order To Strike Portion Of Plaintiff David McKee’s Reply Brief

Minnesota Court Of Appeals Announces Decision

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Petition For Review By Minnesota Supreme Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Opposition To Review By Minnesota Supreme Court

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Plaintiff David McKee’s Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Defendant Dennis Laurion’s Reply Brief To Minnesota Supreme Court

Minnesota Supreme Court Decision On David McKee MD V. Dennis K. Laurion

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2010

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2011

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2012

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion 2013

McKee V Laurion Is A Textbook Case

 

Years Of Great Dental Marketing Erased When Dentist Sues Patient

October 12, 2012

“Years Of Great Dental Marketing Erased When Dentist Sues Patient”

Jim Du Molin, Dental Practice Marketing And Management Blog

No matter how many times The Wealthy Dentist points out that suing for a negative online review is just bad dental marketing, another case makes headlines.

Three weeks ago we reported on dentist, Mo Saleh, who was suing a former dental patient for $300,000 for damage to his reputation and loss of revenue stemming from what he felt was an inflammatory negative online review.

And just this week the judge in the case decided to throw the lawsuit out, stating that online comments made by the dental patient were free speech.

To prove that the dental patient was guilty of libel, the dentist would have to establish that the statements made in the online review were false, that they caused the dentist harm, and were posted without proper research into the validity of the comments.

But if the online review is considered a statement of opinion about the dentist, as opposed to actual facts, then the dentist won’t get very far in a lawsuit for defamation, and here in California, as well as in Oregon, the law takes it one step further with Anti-SLAPP legislation.

California’s anti-SLAPP statute provides for a special motion to strike a complaint where the complaint arises from activity exercising the rights of petition and free speech. (The California Anti-SLAPP Project). The same is true on Oregon, where the dentist’s lawsuit was initiated.

According to KVAL news, Dr. Saleh may appeal the judges verdict, if he feels that the online review was meant to harm him and not simply to inform the public.

The Wealthy Dentist argues that Dr. Saleh’s money would be better spent initiating a new dental marketing campaign targeted at showcasing what his dental practice has to offer and bringing in new dental patients.

Most of the general public is beginning to look at negative online reviews with some skepticism because of many of the outlandish comments reviewers have made. Someone looking for a local dentist may see the negative review, but will also read the positive reviews, and probably ask a few people they know in the community for a recommendation. They most likely won’t make their decision based on one reviewer’s comments, and if a dental patient did decide on a dentist based on just one review, then a dentist might not want them as a dental patient.

But a dentist can do more damage to their reputation themselves and erase years of great dental marketing by engaging in litigation with a dental patient who has written a poor review of their dental practice.

Instead, spend that money on making your dental practice the best practice in town.

Jim Du Molin is a leading Internet marketing expert for dentists in North America. He has helped hundreds of doctors make more money in their practices using his proven Internet marketing techniques.

Source

Dentist Mo Saleh

Dentist Lawsuits

Doctor Lawsuits

 

Julie Anne: Dr. Mo Saleh Sues Former Patient for Negative Review

September 1, 2012

“Dr. Mo Saleh Sues Former Patient for Negative Review

Julie Anne, BGBC Survivors

Spencer Bailey did not care for the dental service provided Dr. Mo Saleh and left a negative review of his experience on Yelp.com.  Dr. Saleh didn’t care for Bailey’s negative review and sued him for $300,000.

What if I had a bad experience? Can I say something negative?

We like to hear about the good, the bad, and everything in between. Be sure to include all the relevant facts and details, and don’t embellish your story for effect. We are big believers in freedom of speech, but beware the legal consequences if you post false information.

Yelp.com says it is okay for Spencer Bailey to leave a negative review as long as the information is true.

Did this dentist not pay attention to the news in his local area?  It made quite a stir in Portland both around the middle of May, when the media found the story, and then again mid-July with the final hearing.  It was on most every local news station and newspaper as well as national level, and overseas.  Maybe this dentist did see the news and just thinks he is special.  That could be the case.  Do people who file defamation lawsuits have similar character profiles?  That’s an interesting thought.

Dear Dr. Saleh:  Let me help you out.  You will most likely not win this case.  Yelp is a site for “opinions”.  Opinions are protected speech.   Let me save you a lot of money.  You might consider the following:

  • Pull out now.  Withdraw the lawsuit immediately.  Don’t waste any more attorney fees.  You must do this immediately as now that the media has the story, your reputation could be far worse.  Go look at my former pastor’s reviews to see what happened when people heard about a pastor suing former church members.
  • Look up Streisand Effect to see what happens in cases like mine (and yours).  The Streisand Effect would not be good for your reputation.  You will be doing far worse to yourself than Bailey ever did by his one negative review, which would have been buried by positives (if you really are a good dentist as you claim).
  • Issue a press release (maximum of 2 paragraphs – do not follow the example of the press release I have shown on my blog – that is far too long and will subject you to more public criticism).  In the press release, consider expressing your heartfelt sorrow for having caused grief to Mr. Bailey.  You might need to make things right with him because he could sue you!

Personal note to Spencer Bailey:   Congratulations, Spencer – – I now see that you’ve got the best representation in Oregon!

Follow-Up to this story 9/3/12

I just read the Willamette Week news article on this case a few minutes ago and was so pleased to read that Spencer Bailey is in very good hands.  He is being represented by my attorney, Linda Williams, and Jeremiah Ross.  Woohoo!!  And of course they have filed the motion to strike using the anti-SLAPP statute.  The first hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.  You can be sure I will be watching this case.

This article also shares what Spencer said in his reviews.

The reviews cited in the complaint include statements saying Bailey implied ”improper and insufficient dental services by Dr. Saleh.” The complaint further alleges that Bailey wrote, “if Dr. Saleh tells you that you have a cavity — GET A SECOND OPINION.”

According to the complaint. Bailey said he had never had a cavity in 32 years until Saleh found several. Bailey’s lawyers have responded by stating that Bailey went to Saleh for dental work and then went to another dentist after experiencing pain. They claim that the other dentist advised Bailey that some of the fillings were unnecessary and some were poorly put in.

Bailey’s attorneys, Jeremiah Ross and Linda Williams, also claimed that Saleh contacted Bailey after he reviewed the dentist on various web sites, threatening him to remove them. They say Bailey removed the postings out of concern for his and his family’s safety. Even though Bailey removed the postings, Saleh is proceeding with his suit. (Saleh’s lawyer declined to comment.)

COMMENTS:

Anonymous: If he has 10 cavities, then no problem. If he doesn’t then there is a problem. If he violated Yelp’s policy and wrote an outright lie as fact, then he has a problem. He was specific in his allegation. People need to understand that their words have consequences and if those consequences are damaging, then they should be prepared to pay a price equal to the amount of damage that they cause. It is right for the party in the wrong in an auto accident to pay damages then the party committing libel should have to pay up as well. I doubt that this guy caused $300,000 in damages and he took his statement down quickly. However, some lawyer is going to figure it out one day and some mean and hate filled people are going to change their attitudes. The problem is that most stupid people who have time to waste writing knee jerk nonsensical reviews do not have any money and the lawyers will pass. He will likely win, but not because it is okay to write lies and hide behind freedom of speech. Speaking of free speech, is it okay to give out legal advice? What if the legal advice turns out to cost someone? Is the person that gives out legal advice responsible for their words or is that protected under freedom of speech as well?

Julie Anne: I’ve got my spray can ready, Anonymous. BTW: Where do you get this: “He was specific in his allegation.” Where is his allegation referenced? I haven’t seen the original review anywhere or a copy of it anywhere.

Anonymous: Hmmm. I thought that I gave a pretty honest assessment. Not sure how what I wrote offends you. According to the the quote in the news article that I read, he was specific about the number of cavities that the dentist said he found. That seems pretty specific. I just don’t think that it is right for people to take shots at someone because they are in business and for no other good reason. That certainly was not the founders intent when the Bill of Rights was written. I do not think that the Anti-Slapp law was written to stop something like this from being heard in court either. Both legal concepts are exploited by people with too much time on their hands. Just my opinion, but there are many that agree with me. This dentist is probably ill advised to bring such a suit and is very likely to lose. He certainly has the right to defend himself.

Julie Anne: So you are implying that this guy is taking shots at someone just because they are in business? Ok. That explains everything. We’ll see how this plays out and I think you are missing the purpose of the anti-SLAPP. Let’s say that Bailey was wrong at posting his review (I don’t have enough information to say that at all). He was asked to remove his negative comment – actually, he was threatened by legal action to remove it. So Bailey removed it and was still sued. Who is showing bully behavior here?

An Attorney: It is my opinion that the dentist will suffer the “Streisand effect” and that might result in him having to relocate to have a successful practice. Anonymous, if it is clearly an opinion, then the statement is protected speech under the First Amendment and under the Oregon Anti-SLAPP law. And Yelp states that the statements therein are opinion and not matters of fact. BTW, if the dentist was wrong about the cavities, he could also be liable for malpractice, as well as having to pay the defendant’s legal bills, which can run to $50,000 very quickly. There are too many people who get in a hurry to sue without counting the costs and the risks before doing so. I suspect that the dentist will suffer more loss of business from the suit than from the comment. It is called shooting oneself in the foot with the aid of an attorney!

Julie Anne: An Attorney – your comment got stuck in my spam box . So sorry! Most reasonable people who read review sites realize that there will always be a few negative comments and will disregard them if the large majority of comments are positive. This dentist, in addition to my former pastor, brought far more negative attention to themselves by suing. It’s telling the world how they deal with conflict.

Anonymous: Attorney is right and the dentist did more damage to himself than the poster. It is a little different in JA’s case and I really don’t know why Oneal did not go after the “false report” a bit stronger. I believe that I would have gotten all of that out and then launched a targeted lawsuit against whomever was responsible. If anything, that set of events related to his family getting investigated was well over the line. Stalking is never acceptable, either.

Watcher of Anonymous: There goes Anonymous again. Perhaps Anonymous should ask the source about why they didn’t use Anonymous’ wisdom and do things Anonymous’ way. And do some of Anonymous’ suggestions about this and that constitute “free legal advice”? Anonymous proves again that Anonymous is logically inconsistent.

Anonymous: Does not look like much of a thread going here. But, you read your history and case law concerning Anti-Slapp and then get back to me. I think that you will find that it is for two things: To protect Freedom of Speech, and to assure that regular people have a voice at public hearings concerning property rights and zoning. Anything other than that is just plain abuse and giving one party more rights over another. I should lose money and my right to recover so that someone can entertain themselves? It is not intended to allow someone to hide behind the First Amendment and inflict damages on another party for whatever reason. Before you say it ain’t so, you study up real good. Start with the Federalist papers and work up.

Watcher of Anonymous: Anonymous must seem to find “stirring the pot” comments and demands for others to “get back to me” to be entertaining. Ironic. Perhaps Anonymous is addicted to ensuring there’s “much of a thread going”? Julie Anne doesn’t owe Anonymous or Anonymous’ demand anything. Maybe Anonymous needs to have Anonymous’ own blog to lay out Anonymous’ own theory of the import of the Federalist papers and etc.

An Attorney: First Amendment jurisprudence allows opinion that is negative about someone and protects it as free speech from being defamation. The Anti-SLAPP law just allows those who win after being sued for expressing opinion to recover their legal fees. The law does not pay the defendant, just their legal fees and legal costs.

Kathi: Wow! This is the first I’ve heard of this. If I were a patient at that orthodontist’s office, I would most likely leave his practice and find another orthodontist. I don’t think I’d like the chance of being sued if I felt that he was not providing a good service. The only other case I’ve seen recently was about an orthodontist being sued by a man who says that the doctor intentionally left his braces on for 11 years! I think there’s more to that story.

Julie Anne: I’m curious, Kathi, do you use review sites like Google, Yelp, DexKnows? I’ve been using review sites for years – primarily when looking for hotels, restaurants, etc. Some might find this surprising, but I rarely leave a negative review. If I receive service that goes over and above the normal expected service, I like to give a shout-out by leaving a positive review. I have definitely gone to places where I could have left negative reviews, but instead, prefer to handle those in person and usually they get the situation resolved that way. I have left positive reviews after having a negative experience and then explain how management made things right. That is important, too. On this sentence: “ I don’t think I’d like the chance of being sued if I felt that he was not providing a good service.” are you saying that you wouldn’t like the risk of being sued if you left a negative review?

Kathi: I use Yelp mostly for looking at reviews of places. I have left a couple, but nothing negative. However, I have a friend who uses Yelp quite a bit. She left a negative review on a restaurant and received a good response back from the owner. You just never know how a person is going to respond to a negative review. I would hope that the business would take it seriously and learn from the person making the comment. I think that most who take it poorly, such as those who decide to sue, are under the impression that they are the best at what they do. So, who is the customer to question. If I were a patient at this particular doctor and I found out he was suing another patient I would get out because to me, that doctor has set a standard. I would not be comfortable going to see him knowing that if I didn’t like his service, and decided to say something to someone about it, I could be sued for my opinion. I guess that this comes from watching relatives who are sue happy and will say that they’ll sue someone if they are wronged in any way. By the way – that’s a great update on the post!

Julie Anne: I wonder how many share your thoughts, Kathi, that if they leave a negative review they might be sued? That kind of defeats the purpose of reviews if you can’t leave an honest review, even if it is negative. I don’t think I’ve ever left a negative review without going up the channels to get the situation resolved. Public reviews are obviously public and it’s important to give the benefit of the doubt first or to allow them an opportunity to make a situation better, if possible.

Headless Unicorn Guy: According to the complaint. Bailey said he had never had a cavity in 32 years until Saleh found several. Bailey’s lawyers have responded by stating that Bailey went to Saleh for dental work and then went to another dentist after experiencing pain. They claim that the other dentist advised Bailey that some of the fillings were unnecessary and some were poorly put in. Isn’t that called “Malpractice”? Or (for the suddenly-appearing cavities and unnecessary fillings) “Fraud”?

Spencer Bailey: I am Spencer Bailey, the defendant in the case against Dr. Saleh and Dental Dynamics. I stumbled across this page when I was researching your case (earily similar!). I wanted to personally thank you for calling attention to my case and to the issue of internet defamation in general. As you and I both know, being sued is scary and embarassing and I am so glad that you prevailed as well (We won our anti-SLAPP motion this morning!. Jeremiah Ross and Linda Williams were expert attorneys and am so grateful for their hard work in this case. I wish you the best of luck and greatly appreciate your work in advancing this cause.

Source

Dentist Mo Saleh News

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Willamette Week: Portland Dentist Sues Patient Over Internet Posts

September 3, 2012

“Portland Dentist Sues Patient Over Internet Posts”

Sam Stites, Willamette Week

A Portland dentist is suing a former patient for what the dentist claims are defamatory reviews in online forums.

Dr. Mo Saleh, of Dental Dynamics, originally filed suit against Spencer Bailey in Multnomah Circuit Court on June 26 seeking $300,000 after Bailey wrote about Saleh’s dental skills on Yelp, DoctorOogle.com and Google. In his lawsuit, Saleh says Bailey posts caused damage to his reputation, loss of profits and emotional distress.

The reviews cited in the complaint include statements saying Bailey implied ”improper and insufficient dental services by Dr. Saleh.” The complaint further alleges that Bailey wrote, “if Dr. Saleh tells you that you have a cavity — GET A SECOND OPINION.”

According to the complaint. Bailey said he had never had a cavity in 32 years until Saleh found several. Bailey’s lawyers have responded by stating that Bailey went to Saleh for dental work and then went to another dentist after experiencing pain. They claim that the other dentist advised Bailey that some of the fillings were unnecessary and some were poorly put in.

Bailey’s attorneys, Jeremiah Ross and Linda Williams, also claimed that Saleh contacted Bailey after he reviewed the dentist on various web sites, threatening him to remove them. They say Bailey removed the postings out of concern for his and his family’s safety. Even though Bailey removed the postings, Saleh is proceeding with his suit. (Saleh’s lawyer declined to comment.)

As online commentary about all manner of topics has exploded, so too has the number of lawsuits unhappy targets have filed about such commentary. Saleh’s suit falls under what lawyers call a practice of Strategic Law Against Public Participation or SLAPP. SLAPP cases take aim at people making statements or publishing information that could be damaging to the plaintiff. Critics say these suits are sometimes little more than attempt to censor, silence and in intimidate the defendant.

Bailey’s attornies filed a motion to strike Saleh’s lawsuit under the anti-SLAPP statute, declaring that Bailey’s online reviews are free speech in a public forum. “Spencer’s review was a protected opinion and the Plaintiff cannot prove their allegations,” Ross, Bailey’s co-counsel tells Willamette Weekly via email. “Nor can they prove $300,000 in damages for a post that was up for three weeks.”

Source

Dentist Mo Saleh

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KATU NEWS: Dentist Sues Patient For $300,000 For Bad Online Review

August 31, 2012

“Dentist Sues Patient For $300,000 For Bad Online Review”

Dan Tilkin, KATU News and KATU Staff

LAKE OSWEGO, Oregon – A Lake Oswego dentist is suing his former patient because the patient posted negative reviews about him on the Internet.

Dr. Mo Saleh wants $300,000, saying his patient, Spencer Bailey, harmed his reputation. But Bailey said he shouldn’t pay the price for telling the truth.

Bailey now has a lawyer and an expensive court battle ahead of him after his fallout with Dr. Saleh who works at Optima Dental in Lake Oswego.

Bailey suspected he was getting questionable care. “I had never had a cavity before I set food in his office,” he said. “He told me the day that I saw him that I had 10 or so cavities, which threw me for a loop – I was nervous that I had some other health problem.”

Bailey posted a negative review on the website Yelp. He said three weeks later Saleh demanded Bailey take down the posting or be sued. Bailey said he removed it immediately.

“In hindsight it didn’t matter because, even though I took down the opinion online, I’m still right here,” he said.

Doctor Saleh declined to speak to KATU News.

Dr. Saleh is seeking $300,000 from Bailey for lost profits, emotional distress and damage to his reputation.

“The insinuation that this negative opinion, one of many, cost him $100,000 a week in lost business, I think it is a stretch,” Bailey said.

Bailey’s lawyer said that Yelp and other websites are protected from being sued and can’t be held liable for one person’s opinion.

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