Business Insider: A Doctor Sued A Patient For Posting Negative Online Reviews About Her Breast Augmentation

MAY 23, 2012

“A Doctor Sued A Patient For Posting Negative Online Reviews About Her Breast Augmentation”

Mandy Woodruff, Business Insider

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Writing bad reviews can get you sued?

An Orlando woman was slapped with a lawsuit after she blasted her plastic surgeon on RateMDs.com for what she said was a botched breast augmentation.

Dr. Armando Soto went public with his intent to sue the woman for defamation, writing in a blog post that she allegedly asked friends to post duplicates of her review on the site as well.

In one comment, she complained of a “horrific” 9-inch scar left by the procedure and said the implants were too large: “My breasts are uneven and I was charged for a procedure which two other surgeons have said was not done.”

Once Soto tracked down the poster (he had to go through an attorney after RateMDs refused to turn over her identity) and filed a $49,000 suit for libel and defamation.

Whether or not her allegations were true, it looks like the woman’s agreed to back down in exchange for a corrective procedure. “The good news is that we are now working collaboratively toward the goal of achieving her complete satisfaction, and she has agreed to remove these posts, as well as those falsely placed by her friends,” Soto wrote.

While it looks like the poster was convinced to remove the post, it’s unlikely lawsuits like Soto’s would stand in court anyway, a consumer advocate says.

“The right to speak anonymously is a fundamental right, particularly when you’re expressing opinion,” consumer attorney David Muraskin, told Orlando’s WFTV.

COMMENTS:

Milly Cooper: American capitalistic free-market utopia at work.

Kathleen: How would they know who to sue if they signed anonymous? A bad publicity like this could ruin the surgeon’s career if proven true. I guess he should start operating good result so angry women would not rave on him.

Dr Armando Soto: Because it seems some portion of the citizenry remains confused about the truth of the issues involved in my recent dispute with a former patient, I would like to clear the air. The following are the facts of the situation. They are facts, and they are not in dispute.

The woman in question has admitted to posting negative and harmful things about me.

She has also admitted to posting many duplicates with variation and with different usernames, to make it look like the posts were written by many people.

She has admitted to asking her family members to write ugly and untrue things about me. These family members have never met me, much less been my patients.

Some of the things she wrote were her opinions, but others were statements of fact that I could prove to be untrue.

In summary, those who argue that I and others like me should not be allowed to restrict Americans’ right to free speech are woefully missing the point. I completely support free expression of opinions- as (thankfully) does our system of laws. I also spent a large portion of my energy protecting this person from public identification and other harm- because my goal was to achieve a satisfied patient- not to punish her as has been reported or opined.

What I do not support, however, is the idea that any American should have to tolerate the fraudulent and defamatory behavior the facts above reflect. In America (thankfully) we make a distinction between opinion and defamation.      Whether you are a plumber, an architect, a lawyer, or a painter, I don’t believe any reasonable person would say that attacks like the one I have experienced should be protected by law- but this requires understanding that the circumstances of this situation did NOT involve protection of her opinions.

Thankfully, the patient and I were able to finally have the healthy and constructive communication necessary to resolve our problems without escalation, and we are both happy with the resolution.

It is important to realize that at some point, we will all become ill or injured and need a healthcare provider… and that the quality of the care you get, the outcome you achieve, and the quality of the experience you have, will all necessarily depend on the relationship you have with your doctors.

This doctor-patient relationship is what is really damaged when any individual resorts to the Internet rather than openly discussing their concerns with their physician- and their care ultimately suffers for it.

One of the reasons I believe I do enjoy such a positive relationship with the vast majority of my patients is because open communication is so highly valued in my practice. Spending time, listening, talking, understanding each other… these are the characteristics of an important relationship- and they are fundamental to good health care whether discussing heart surgery or a facelift.

So the real take home message for all patients ought to be- find doctors you like and trust- then treat the relationship you build with them with the respect and care you would any other important relationship. Your care will ultimately be better, your outcomes better, and your experience more positive.

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ABC Action News: Florida Plastic Surgeon Sues His Internet Critics

May 22, 2012

“Florida Plastic Surgeon Sues His Internet Critics”

Brendan McLaughlin, ABC Action News, Orlando, Florida

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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.

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