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.)
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.