The next time you leave a scathing review of a business, you may want to make sure you are giving opinions and not stating falsehoods as facts. The former should see your speech protected. The latter could bring on the wrath of litigious cosmetic surgeon, determined to sue your butt for millions of dollars!
That’s the case in California, where a doctor is suing critics that filed negative reviews on Yelp.com and DoctorScorecard.com.
[Dr. Kimberly] Henry’s lawsuit, filed in Marin Superior Court, claims libel and defamation, invasion of privacy and interference with prospective economic advantage. She is seeking $1 million in general damages, $1 million in special damages, unspecified punitive damages, legal costs, injunctions against the reviewers and restraining orders.
Twelve anonymous aliases have been listed and three defendants have actually been named in the case. How come three have been revealed? The naive owner of DoctorScorecard.com buckled upon receiving his first ever subpoena–quickly handing over the email and IP addresses of Henry’s critics.
<insert rolling eyes here>
To be fair, you can’t blame him for handing over the info. Blame the even more naive judge that issued the court order!
So, does the suit have any merit?
I guess that is for the court to decide. Stating opinions is one thing, but defamation laws are so complex that you don’t even need to make outlandish statements of fact, before you run afoul of them. Still, if a judge decides that Henry’s suit is without merit, he could enforce California’s law against so-called SLAPPs–strategic lawsuits against public participation–which are lawsuits aimed to squelch free speech of online reviewers.
Lastly, I’m left wondering why Henry didn’t simple give herself a nose-job and start again in a new city.