Outpatient Surgery Magazine: Surgeon Sues Patient for Damning Online Review

 

Surgeon Sues Patient for Damning Online Review

Daniel Cook

Outpatient Surgery Magazine

May 29, 2012

A Florida plastic surgeon thinks anonymous comments made by a former patient on a physician rating website crossed the line between opinion and malicious intent, and he’s fighting back with a defamation lawsuit.

Armando Soto, MD, reacted strongly to postings made on RateMDs.com about a botched breast augmentation procedure he allegedly performed in 2011, according to a published report. He wants the comments removed and is seeking $49,000 in damages.

His defamation lawsuit was originally filed in Virginia because that’s where he and his attorney, Domingo Rivera, thought the complaints originated. However, he plans to drop that suit and file in Florida since subsequently discovering a school teacher in his home state might have posted the negative comments. He believes the teacher posed as several unhappy patients, adding numerous damning remarks on the site.

Mr. Rivera says his client’s lawsuit addresses the difference between opinion and defamatory speech. For example, a post stating that Dr. Soto did “a poor job” is opinion, he says, while comments about breast unevenness or extra scarring are defamatory if they are not true. He believes unhappy patients should return to their physicians to have post-op issues fixed, and accuses the patient in this case of conducting a vendetta against Dr. Soto’s reputation, which the lawsuit is angling to repair and protect.

David Muraskin, a Public Citizen attorney representing the patient, said in the news report that the lawsuit could squelch freedom of speech. He could not be reached for additional comment.

SOURCE

Armando Soto MD

Other Doctors Who Sued For Defamation

Fox News: Florida Doctor Sues Patient For Posting Bad Review Online

Florida Doctor Sues Patient For Posting Bad Review Online 

Fox News, Orlando, Florida

May 24, 2012

A Florida plastic surgeon has filed a lawsuit against one of his patients for posting an unfavorable review of him online.

Dr. Armando Soto said he filed the suit to protect his reputation and his business. The unnamed patient allegedly trashed his services online at the website “Rate MDs,” posting complaints about a breast surgery.

Attorney Larry Walters said although the patient may be covered by free speech laws, this protection will only apply if the criticism is valid. “You cannot cross the line and make false statement of fact about a person that causes damages to that person,” he said.

Dr. Soto said he has been in contact with the patient he filed the suit against, and they are trying to work it out. He said he believes his suit against the patient could soon be dropped.

SOURCE

Armando Soto MD

Other Doctors Who Sued For Defamation

Medical Reputation Management: Orlando Doctor Sues Patient?

Orlando Doctor Sues Patient

Patrick Chavoustie, CEO

Omni Medical Marketing

Undated

I read a story about a Doctor in Orlando that is suing a patient. This brought up many interesting questions and a few conversations with plastic surgeons late last night concerning medical reputation management.

How much damage can be caused by just a few bad reviews?

I believe it is said, if you have a happy customer, they will tell one person, if you have a disgruntled customer, they will tell 20. This has changed quite a bit as we all know. Today, I would estimate that maybe 1 out of 100 happy customers will post a review for you online, without being asked to do so. Since this customer is “happy,” there will be a positive review. On the other hand, one out of seven unhappy customers will post a negative review online.

Five hundred happy patients turns into 5 positive reviews. Thirty  unhappy patients turn into 4-5 negative reviews. Keep in mind the multiplier is huge here, as hundreds if not thousands of people will read these reviews each month.

Who reads reviews anyways?

Over the last few months I have spent quite a bit of time looking at reviews for various businesses. I am getting married in June, and planning the wedding has led me to read a large number of online reviews.  I have looked at limousine company reviews. It’s a shiny car, but will it be clean for us? Check reviews. Need to hire a band. They sound good, but will they show up on time? Check reviews. I bought a new house last month. It’s time to hire a moving company.  Is their quote real, or will I get a surprise $400 gas surcharge? Check reviews…  I, like most people, would be much more inclined to “warn” other people after having a terrible experience with a business.

What if most of my reviews are positive?

One thing I noticed was how much weight I put on the negative reviews compared to the positive reviews. The negative reviews just seemed to scream out, “pay the most amount of attention to me!”  The positive reviews seemed to stay very quiet, almost whispering, “These were posted by the owner, these are fake!” Almost every time I read a review for a moving company, a doctor, or even a stereo receiver at Best Buy, I always take a peek at the 5 star reviews, but I always click on the one star reviews as well.  There is no doubt in my mind that one negative review outweighs 3-5 positive reviews.

Fake reviews, Astro-Turfing , and why anonymous reviews should be stopped!

I hear horror stories all the time from medical practices claiming they have been the victim of unfair, unwarranted, and possibly illegal fake reviews. I spoke with a plastic surgeon, who first called us for SEO, and then explained that his ex-girlfriend went online and posted dozens of fake reviews as a way of “getting back at him.”  I also spoke with a client who had a number of negative reviews all based on the same procedure that he didn’t, doesn’t, and never has performed.  He has his suspicions in regards to which one of his competitors wrote the reviews.

I am all for free speech, I believe if you have something negative to say about someone, you should have no problems putting your name next to it. People are being seriously hurt by fake reviews and Astro-Turfing.

Is suing the patient a smart form of medical reputation management?

While it is certainly one form, it’s most likely not the best form. I am not sure if suing a patient is the right thing to do or not. While I do not believe people should allow themselves to be walked all over, suing could bring personal damages to a whole other level. The number of people checking reviews is greater than ever. Anytime someone searches the name of this doctor, this story is going to come up.  Along with this story, search results will also show this negative review, as well as any other negative review that may have been made concerning this doctor.   This only draws more attention and increases exposure. Google’s algorithm and search engine optimization is set up in a way that this story will almost certainly dominate the web for the year to come. Not only will people see the negative reviews in my opinion, they may choose to not voice their opinion for fear of being sued.

What can I do to protect my practice?

Finding out what is being said about you and where it is being said is obviously the first step. It is best to bring in the staff to help you tackle this task that should take less than an hour. I suggest using staff, not only to save you time, but to inspire them to produce a level of service within your office that will proactively limit any future negative reviews.

In order to make sure you are getting actual real time results, I suggest you clear your cookies and cache on each computer that will be used to search. If you have been doing searches related to your practice such as “Plastic Surgeon Orange County” or “Sports Medicine practice St. Louis,”  you may end up with the results you have recently reviewed, as opposed to the real-time results.

I suggest you use terms such as your name and every variation of it (i.e. Dr. Jones MD, Dr. Jones, Dr. David Jones, and Dr. David Jones MD). Also use the name of your practice, your phone number, and your address as key words in your searches. Run each one of these searches in Bing, Yahoo, and Google. Each of these search engines has its own algorithm and will produce different search results. Medical, Plastic Surgery, and Dental SEO do not return the same results in each search engine. Bing may miss something that Yahoo picks up, etc.

Once you have identified any negative reviews take note of them. Keep track of each by cutting and pasting the link into a Word file or an email you send to yourself.

Keep informed on what is being posted about you…but don’t pay for it! There are many services that, for a monthly fee, will monitor what is being said about you online. As far as I am concerned this is a waste of money. For absolutely no cost, you can set up Google Alerts. While it is important to know that Google will not always return everything that is being said about you, neither will any pay-for services company that I am aware of. However, Google will pick up most, and it is an absolute must that you get going with this right away. It always eats at me when people pay for services they can receive for free.  If you are not sure how to set up these alerts, shoot me an email and I will be more than happy to show you.

At this point, hopefully you have identified any negative reviews or comments posted about you and or your practice online. At the same time, hopefully you and your staff have identified the patients who posted each of these reviews. If you have yet to identify the individuals,  give another go at it. Most likely the same comments that were posted online were articulated to someone in your office. 

I know who posted this comment, now what?

Do your best to contact them personally. A simple phone call will work best. Ask then to go over their issue with you over the phone. If it warrants setting up an appointment to visit with them in person, make sure you are not late for this appointment and plan to spend as much time as needed to hear the patient out. Time equals love for most of us. We feel good when people are willing to spend time with us. At the least, it will show you care. 

Do your best to make the situation right! This does not mean giving them anything for free, however it might mean giving out your cell phone for any reason they may need it. It may also mean offering them a discount on future services. We have all had terrible customer experiences. Some of these experiences only made us more frustrated, while others made us feel much better and created an environment for us to want to continue doing business with the company or individual who originally upset us. Only you know the best way to right a situation. Using your own experiences will give you a good idea of how to turn the situation around.

Ask that the review/comments be removed or that an additional comment be made. I would never suggest you ask a patient to remove a negative medical review right away. Give it a little time and then ask. Frame your request with “can you do me a personal favor?” Everyone loves hearing a professional ask them for a favor. It makes us feel good; like we matter, and of course your patients do matter!

I have no idea who wrote the review.

If you don’t know who wrote the review, there are two steps to take. Both are equally important.

1)      Contact the webmaster of the site. E-mail is usually the only option. Inform them you have tried to identify the patient, however you are unable to do so. Suggest that the review or comments are from one of your competitors or a disgruntled former employee. Ask them if they are able to identify the reviewer. Mention you do not need their personal information, but rather that you only want to make sure it is a real person with a real issue. 

2)     Post a rebuttal! Posting your own comments will show other readers that you care! Make sure to be non-confrontational in your comments. Ask the person to contact you at your office so you can make the situation right and hear out their issue. If I see a negative review but see a well written thoughtful, caring rebuttal, I actually give more value to it then I would to a positive review in the first place. The value here can be tremendous! Everyone makes mistakes, lets people down, and flat out drops the ball from time to time. This we all know. What we appreciate and respect is when someone takes action to make it right!

SOURCE

Armando Soto MD

Other Doctors Who Sued For Defamation

KIRO 7 TV: Former Patient Sued Over Negative Yelp Review

Former Patient Sued Over Negative Yelp Review 

Gary Horcher 

KIRO 7 TV 

November 6, 2015

When Wendy Wester felt she was treated wrongly by a Bellevue doctor, she felt safe when she took her frustrations to Yelp, to send a negative review. Her target was Dr. Alan Brown, an orthopedic surgeon. Wester wrote that Brown misdiagnosed her knee injury, and because of the misdiagnosis, she says she suffered a blood clot, which could have threatened her life.

Wester said after she suffered torn ligaments from a skiing accident, Dr. Brown diagnosed her knee injury as a torn MCL, which would not require surgery. She said even after appointments with Dr. Brown the next day, her actual injury — a torn ACL — was not diagnosed until she went to another doctor.

She wrote that she suffered a life-threatening blood clot from the actual injury.

According to the Yelp review and court documents, Wester wrote: “His enormous ego nearly cost me my life.  It is an understatement to say that I would not recommend him – ever.”

Dr. Brown, who also has a law degree, is now suing Wester for defamation. His suit, filed last week, says Wester made false and malicious statements, and damaged his business and reputation.

Wester’s attorney told KIRO 7 she had every right to publicly state her opinion. “She felt so strongly about what happened to her that she wanted to let other people to know what she had experienced and what her opinion about this doctor was,” said Seattle attorney Brad Davis. “I think (the lawsuit) is crazy.”

According to Dr. Brown’s suit, Wester was not merely stating her opinion. The title of the suit reads “Complaint for Intentional Interference with Contractual or Business Relations and for Defamation.”

“Everything my client said in the Yelp review was factual, was true, and or was opinion based upon her perspective.”Davis says that makes her Yelp comments Free Speech, protected by the First Amendment.

But it turns out, not everything posted on Yelp is legally protected. “It is whole new territory, uncharted territory, where the damages can be remarkable,” said Seattle University law professor Bryan Adamson, who says legally–Yelp opinions are protected–but if you get facts wrong–it could land you in court. “There are risks when you make statements,” he said. Professor Adamson says Yelpers should use caution. “If they say the wrong thing about the wrong person, and that person wants to sue for defamation, then that becomes a question of fact for a court to decide.”

Congress is now taking up a bill that would protect people who give businesses bad reviews online from expensive lawsuits.

Davis says his client will be vindicated. “I think ultimately the case will be dismissed in my opinion,” he said. “It’s ironic here that Yelp creates a forum to provide opinions, and yet this doctor has chosen to use Yelp as a basis for a claim of defamation,” Davis said.

SOURCE

Doctor Defamation Lawsuits

Crookston Times: Doctor’s Defamation Lawsuit Heads To Jury

Doctor’s Defamation Lawsuit Heads To Jury 

Crookston Times 

January 25, 2012

Laurion posted derogatory comments about McKee’s bedside manner.

A Minnesota appeals court says a jury should decide whether a Duluth man defamed a local doctor by posting derogatory comments about his bedside manner on rate-your-doctor websites.

The appeals court Monday sent the case back to St. Louis County for trial. A district court judge had earlier ruled Dr. David McKee was not defamed by the criticism and threw out his lawsuit against Dennis Laurion. McKee wants $50,000 in damages from Laurion for posting the statements on the Internet. Judge Eric Hylden said Laurion’s comments were opinions and constituted statements that were too vague to be defamatory.

The Duluth News Tribune says Laurion was critical of the treatment his father, Kenneth, received from McKee after suffering a stroke and spending four days at St. Luke’s hospital last year.

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

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion References And Precedents

 

 

 

HEALTHCARE Business & Technology E-Newsletter: More Doctors Sue Over Bad Online Reviews

More Doctors Sue Over Bad Online Reviews 

Sam Narisi 

HEALTHCARE Business & Technology E-Newsletter 

April 2, 2013

As more people turn to the web to help them make decisions about their healthcare, more potential patients will check out online reviews about doctors. And many physicians will do everything they can to protect their reputations on the web.

In some cases, that includes taking a patient to court because of negative online reviews.

Dr. David McKee of Minnesota recently lost a court battle in which he sued a patient’s son who had written negative comments about McKee on several doctor rating websites. The negative reviews were related to comments McKee had made to the patient and his family. Though McKee claimed the online reviews hurt his reputation and his business, the court threw out the case on the grounds that the comments were true and therefore not defamatory. 

McKee isn’t the only doctor who’s gone to court recently because of negative online reviews. According to the Digital Media Project at Harvard University, there have been at least seven court cases over the past five years or so related to online reviews of doctors. Those lawsuits show how difficult it is for doctors to win. In all of those cases, patients either agreed to take down their comments to avoid a suit, or the court threw out the case.

In one of the incidents, a neurosurgery patient posted several negative comments about a surgeon online, including insinuations that the doctor was responsible for creating an unusually high risk of death for patients. But when the surgeon sued, the court threw out the case on the grounds that the patient was engaging in free speech about a public issue. The doctor was ordered to pay $50,000 in legal fees.

Most experts warn doctors against taking legal action because of negative online reviews. In addition to the potential for losing a costly legal battle, they warn that in many cases, filing a suit only brings attention to the patient’s complaints.

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

David McKee MD v. Dennis Laurion References And Precedents

 

 

 

Pioneer Press: Duluth Neurologist Sues Son Of A Former Patient

Duluth Neurologist Sues Son Of A Former Patient 

Pioneer Press 

June 12, 2010 

DULUTH, Minnesota — A Duluth neurologist is suing the son of a former stroke patient for publicly criticizing him.

Dr. David McKee, with Northland Neurology and Myology, wants more than $50,000 in damages from Dennis Laurion of Duluth in a lawsuit made public Friday.

McKee alleges that Laurion defamed him and interfered with his business by making false statements to third parties, including the American Academy of Neurology and the American Neurological Association.

Laurion’s 85-year-old father, Kenneth Laurion, suffered a hemorrhagic stroke and spent four days hospitalized in April.

Among the allegations, McKee says Dennis Laurion lied when he claimed McKee blamed the patient for the loss of his time. Laurion tells the Duluth News Tribune that his statements were true and he is immune from liability.

 

Plaintiff David McKee MD

 

Defendant Dennis Laurion

 

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