Doctors, hospitals sue patients who post negative comments, reviews on social media

Retired Air Force colonel David Antoon agreed to pay $100 to settle what were once felony charges for emailing his former Cleveland Clinic surgeon articles the doctor found threatening in addition to also also posting a list on Yelp of all the surgeries the urologist had scheduled at the same time as the one in which left Antoon incontinent in addition to also also impotent a decade ago.

He faced up to a year in prison.

Antoon’s 10-year crusade against the Cleveland Clinic in addition to also also his urologist can be unusual for its length in addition to also also intensity, as can be the extent to which Cleveland Clinic urologist Jihad Kaouk was able to convince police in addition to also also prosecutors to advocate on his behalf.

Antoon’s plea deal last week comes as others in medical community aggressively combat negative social media posts, casting a pall over one of the few ways prospective patients can get unvarnished opinions of doctors.

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Among recent cases:

• Cleveland physician Bahman Guyuron can be suing a former patient for defamation for posting negative reviews on Yelp in addition to also also various other sites about her nose job. Guyuron’s attorney Steve Friedman notes in which while the First Amendment protects patients’ rights to post their opinions, “our position can be she did far beyond in which (in addition to also also) deliberately made false factual statements.” A settlement mediation can be slated for early August in addition to also also a trial can be set for late August if no agreement can be reached.

• Jazz singer Sherry Petta used her own website in addition to also also doctor-rating sites to criticize a Scottsdale, Ariz., medical practice over her nasal tip surgery, laser treatment in addition to also also various other procedures. Her doctors, Albert Carlotti in addition to also also Michelle Cabret-Carlotti, successfully sued for defamation. They won a $12 million jury award in which was later vacated on appeal. Petta claimed the court judgment forced her to sell a house in addition to also also file bankruptcy. The parties could not discuss the case in addition to also also jointly asked for the idea to be dismissed in 2016, however declined to explain why.

• A Michigan hospital sued an elderly patient’s two daughters in addition to also also a granddaughter recently over a Facebook post in addition to also also for picketing in front of the hospital they said mistreated the late Eleanor Pound. The operator of Kalkaska Memorial Health Center sued Aliza Morse, Carol Pound in addition to also also Diane Pound for defamation, tortious interference in addition to also also invasion of privacy.

Petta’s attorney, Ryan Lorenz, says consumers need to know there can be consequences if they post factually incorrect information. Lorenz, who has represented both consumers in addition to also also businesses on cases involving online comments, added in which consumers are allowed to offer opinions in which do not address factual points.

“Make sure what you are saying can be true – the idea has to be truthful,” he says.

“the idea could be great if the regulators of hospitals in addition to also also doctors were more diligent about responding to harm to patients however they’re not, so people have turned to various other people,” says Lisa McGiffert, former head of Consumer Reports’ Safe Patient Project. “This specific can be what happens when your system of oversight can be failing patients.”

As doctors in addition to also also hospitals throw their considerable resources behind legal fights, some patients face huge legal bills for posting them in addition to also also various other consumers face their own challenges trying to get a straight story.

Experts say in which doctors take on extra risk when they resort to suing a patient.

Doctors typically can’t successfully sue third-party websites such as Yelp in which allow consumer comments, however they can sue patients over reviews.

Even so, “you can win (a case) in addition to also also still not win,” said Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University’s law school.

Goldman, who has tracked about two dozen cases of doctors suing patients over online reviews, says physicians rarely win the cases, in addition to also also in some cases, must pay the patients’ legal fees.

Physician-patient confidentiality rules complicate options for doctors, Goldman says, however they can respond to factually incorrect reviews if the patient agrees to waive confidentiality in addition to also also publicly discuss the case.

The comments being challenged legally are typically those in which were left online. Many medical review sites will remove posts they deem offensive or threatening to doctors, as many of Antoon or various other Kaouk patients were. Yelp only removes reviews in which violate the consumer website’s terms of service.

Patients should also first bring up complaints directly to the doctor or various other medical provider, says Edward Hopkins, an attorney who represented Carlotti, Cabret-Carlotti in addition to also also their medical practice for part of the case. various other options could include reporting a doctor to state oversight agencies, consulting with an attorney or filing complaints using a state attorneys’ general office.

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