Medical Professionals Sue Over Negative Online Reviews

How far would you be willing to go to defend your practice’s online reputation?
Amanda Carrozza
Published: July 25, 2018
Online Review LawsuitYour practice’s positive reputation is vital to its success. Not only does a good reputation generate a sense of pride that your clients appreciate your expertise and the way you run your business, but favorable reviews and accolades from current clients may entice other pet owners to schedule an appointment with your office. It’s no wonder, then, that a negative online review about your clinic can feel like a personal attack.   

Some experts advise taking the high road and ignoring negative reviews entirely, while others suggest responding amicably to show that you recognize the client’s frustrations but aren’t retaliatory. In some cases, sites will even remove bad reviews on your behalf.

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But have you ever considered suing someone who left a bad review? That’s the route some medical doctors have taken recently—with some success. And they aren’t just suing to have the negative reviews taken down. Money is involved, too. Consider these 2 cases:
 
  • In Ohio, a plastic surgeon sued a former patient because of negative reviews she posted anonymously on Yelp and similar sites about a rhinoplasty performed by the doctor. According to court documents, the physician sued because the reviews contained deliberately made false statements. And while many such lawsuits are settled out of court or dismissed, this one is set for trial later this year. The doctor is requesting $1.8 million.
 
  • A cosmetic surgeon in Arizona won a $12 million lawsuit against a former patient who claimed that cosmetic surgery on her nose and eyelids and laser treatments on her face left her with an infection and that the doctor operated on her nose without her consent. Following the procedures, the patient posted numerous online reviews and complaints, and questioned the doctor’s credentials. She even created a website dedicated to her complaints. The federal Consumer Review Fairness Act protects people’s ability to share their honest opinions about a business in any forum, including social media. However, this particular lawsuit alleged that the reviews were defamatory and baseless—and a judge agreed. Most recently, however, the $12 million jury award was vacated on appeal.

While these cases involved human medicine and included more than a single, unfavorable review, they do raise the question of whether other medical professionals, veterinarians included, may turn to the courts in an effort to fight back against negative reviews they believe to be unfounded.

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