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

USA TODAY:

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

He faced up to a year in prison.

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

Antoon’s plea deal last week came as others in the 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.

Among recent cases:

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

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

• A Michigan hospital sued an elderly patient’s two daughters and a granddaughter over a Facebook post and 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 and Diane Pound for defamation, tortious interference and 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 and businesses on cases involving online comments, says consumers are allowed to offer opinions that do not address factual points.

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