November 4, 2015
“Bellevue Doctor Sues Patient Who Blasted Him On Yelp”
Levi Pulkkinen, Seattle PI
A Bellevue surgeon is suing an unsatisfied patient, claiming she defamed him in an online review posted to Yelp. In the lawsuit, Dr. Alan Brown claims his reputation and business were both damaged by a Yelp review posted by the woman, who had hurt her knee skiing. Brown also claims he’s owed for a complaint the woman made to state health officials that he says contained false, malicious statements.
The patient, Wendy Wester, has denied any wrongdoing. Her attorney, Brad Davis, disputed each allegation put forward by the doctor. Speaking Tuesday, Davis said he believes the record will show Wester’s statements were not defamatory. “I just think it’s unfortunate,” the Seattle attorney said. “My clients (Wester and her husband) didn’t ask for this. … But now they’re going to fight it.”
Brown did not return repeated requests for comment. He is acting as his own attorney in the matter.
Wester met with Brown, an orthopedic surgeon, in February 2013 after she hurt her knee skiing. A different doctor ultimately performed surgery on Wester related to her knee injury. Wester posted a negative review of Brown on June 3, 2014, to Yelp, a popular consumer ratings website. She followed that up with a formal complaint to the state medical board.
Brown claims Wester made “numerous false and malicious claims” in the Yelp review. In his lawsuit, Brown outlined Wester’s description of their interactions and pointed to several he claims were untrue.
As described in Brown’s lawsuit, Wester claimed Brown failed to diagnose the injury to her knee after an initial meeting at the Overlake Hospital emergency room. “It is an understatement to say that I would not recommend him – ever,” Wester said in the Yelp review of Brown’s clinic.
Brown contends Wester’s statements and her account of their interactions were “false and defamatory.” “By their very nature, this defendant’s publications have presented and continue to create a substantial danger to (my) personal and business reputation,” Brown told the court in the lawsuit, filed Oct. 27 in King County Superior Court at Seattle.
Brown also notes that Wester made a complaint to the Washington State Medical Commission, which licenses doctors in the state. Brown claims she did so with “provably malicious intent,” a claim Wester denies.
Speaking Tuesday, medical board deputy executive director Micah Matthews said Wester’s complaint was reviewed earlier this year. The complaint was investigated before being closed in March, after a 10-member panel ruled the evidence did not show a violation had occurred. Brown’s licensing record does not show any sustained complaints.
Filing a response to the lawsuit, Davis denied all of Brown’s claims while asserting the doctor brought any harm he’s suffered on himself.
It’s not clear how much money Brown is seeking. He claims his reputation was seriously harmed by the review, which as of Wednesday appeared in the “not currently recommended” reviews section of the Yelp page for the clinic where he works.
On Wester’s behalf, Davis asked the court to order Brown to pay his client’s legal costs if she prevails. An initial hearing date has not yet been set.
Seattlepi.com reporter Levi Pulkkinen can be reached at 206-448-8348 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Levi on Twitter at twitter.com/levipulk.