Wednesday, May 18, 2011

California Dentist Ordered to Pay $80K in Attorney Fees in Yelp Lawsuit

Sometimes it is just better to punt when some people want to say hateful things about you, no?
A California dentist who lost a defamation case over negative reviews on must pay $80,000 in attorney fees to a young patient's parents, whom she sued, according to a court ruling issued May 12.

In January 2009, San Francisco Bay Area dentist Yvonne Wong, DDS, filed a lawsuit against Tai Jing and Jia Ma, the parents of a young patient who had been treated by Dr. Wong, after the father posted a negative review on

Dr. Wong contended that the review defamed her by implying that she didn't inform the boy's parents about alternatives to the use of amalgam and nitrous oxide and didn't spot cavities that needed treatment. She also named Yelp in the suit.

The key issue in the case was whether the review stepped over the line from discussing a topic of public interest to defamation.
Here is a good summary of the case.

A lot has changed in the online world since 2009 when the first negative review on Yelp was posted. Today dentists are more carefully monitoring online reviews and pro-actively asking their patients for positive online comments.

If I were in private practice, online public relations would be a large portion of my dental practice management plan.

The moral to be learned here?

Be nice to your patients, and when someone is unhappy with you, try to satisfy them. If you cannot, avoid the lawsuit and develop a strategy to combat the negativity generated by them.

Moreover, move on.....

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