Defamation of Character Lawsuit: Doctor v. Former Patient

defamation of character case study
A Florida doctor is the defendant in a defamation lawsuit.

A brain surgeon, whom the Miami Herald describes as a “high-profile doctor at” the University of Miami, is being sued for defamation of character by an alleged former paramour.

According to reports, because of complaints lodged by Dr. Bruno Gallo, Lisa Morse allegedly became the subject of a “be-on-the-lookout” flyer distributed to “officials” on the University of Miami campus.

Morse insists that Gallo’s claims are bogus. She also contends that the flyers were vicious, defamatory, baseless and untrue attacksthat “severely limited her ability to earn a living.”

Who Will Win This Defamation of Character Lawsuit?

At the time of this writing, few details about this doctor defamation case have found their way online. To wit, it’s difficult to prognosticate about its eventual outcome. That said, let’s take a minute to talk about what constitutes defamation of character under U.S. law.

The Four Pillar of Slander and Libel

Established case law and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution make winning a stateside defamation (slander if spoken, libel if written) lawsuit difficult. At the very least, to win a slander or libel lawsuit in the States, plaintiffs must prove the four pillars of defamation.

  1. Falsity: Pure opinion and truth are acceptable forms of legal speech. So, to win a defamation of character lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant was, in some way, responsible for the distribution of false, unprivileged information.
  2. Harm: To win a slander or libel lawsuit, it’s not enough to only prove that the defendant made a false statement of fact. Plaintiffs usually have to demonstrate that the false statement of fact caused them either reputational or material harm. The exception to this rule is defamation per se cases where the harm is inherent (go here to read more about defamation of character per se – in the sidebar.)
  3. Identity: Some defamation lawsuits are lost because plaintiffs can’t prove that the defendant was referencing them in the contested statement.
  4. Negligence: The final thing plaintiffs must prove to win a defamation lawsuit is either negligence or actual malice. U.S. slander and libel law differentiate between “public figures” and “private figures.” Private figures only have to prove the defendant was negligent in making the statement, whereas public figures must prove actual malice. To learn more about why, click here and here.

Are You Dealing With A Doctor Defamation Situation?

Are you a medical professional whose reputation setback? Are you being accused of defamation by a medical professional? Our attorneys have served on both the plaintiff and defendant sides of doctor defamation lawsuits. An AV-rated practice, we enjoy a successful track record and have helped countless medical professionals with various reputation attacks that affect their careers. Contact Kelly Warner today to begin the conversation.

Post Source

Lambiet, J. (2015, June 28). Jilted ex of former UM surgeon Bruno Gallo sues for defamation. Retrieved July 24, 2015, from http://www.miamiherald.com/entertainment/ent-columns-blogs/jose-lambiet/article25705117.html

Australian Defamation Case Study: The Hockey Incident

Australian defamation law
A surprising decision in an Australian  Twitter defamation case further defines Internet libel laws in the Antipodes.

An Australian defamation ruling will probably affect how Australians word tweets from here on out.

In this post, we’ll review the case, and then examine the likelihood of a U.S. court delivering the same verdict. If you’ve landed on this page in search of an international online defamation lawyer, click here.

The Tweets That Launched an Australian Defamation Lawsuit

In May of last year, Fairfax Media (an Aussie media outlet) ran a story about Australian Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey’s alleged complicity with, what sounds like, a modern-day political simony scheme. According to a Fairfax Media investigation, a Sydney business group supposedly bestowed inappropriate “access” on Hockey, presumably in exchange for political favors.

As part of efforts to promote the story, Fairfax released two tweets. One simply said, “Treasurer Hockey for sale” followed by a link; the second read, “Treasurer for Sale: Joe Hockey offers privileged access” and was accompanied by a micro-summary of the story.

In response to the tweets, Hockey filed an online defamation lawsuit. After both sides presented their arguments, Justice Richard White decided:

“There would have been a large number of persons, perhaps in the tens of thousands, who read the bare tweets and who did not read further.”

Only The Tweets Are Defamatory, Not The Actual Article

After the ruling, a Fairfax Media spokesperson explained to the press:

“The Court upheld Fairfax’s defence of the articles and found them not to be defamatory. Mr Hockey’s claims were only upheld in respect to the publication of the SMH [Sydney Morning Herald] poster and two tweets by The Age because they lacked the context of the full articles.”

In other words, the court said Fairfax Media’s investigative article about Hockey wasn’t defamatory. Only the tweets were libelous because they lacked clarifying context.

Would Hockey Have Won This Twitter Defamation Case In A U.S. Court?

Two win a defamation lawsuit in the United States, at the very least, plaintiffs must meet the following requirements.

Falsity: To win, plaintiffs must prove that defendants made unprivileged, false statements of fact.

Harm: For claimants to win slander or libel lawsuits, it’s not enough to demonstrate that a statement was false, they typically must prove that it caused material or reputational harm. (The exception to this rule is defamation per se, which you can read more about here in the sidebar.)

Negligence or Actual Malice: Intention is a big part of defamation law. To win a case, plaintiffs must prove that their respective defendants were either negligent or, in some cases, intentional in releasing the statements under review.

So, taking the parameters of U.S. defamation law into consideration, would Hockey have won this lawsuit on American soil? Probably not. Especially since the court found that the actual article, which the tweets referenced, was not defamatory.

Differences Between U.S. and Australian Defamation Law

Slander and libel laws in the United States and Australia are a lot more different than some people may think. Like other British Commonwealth nations, Australian defamation laws are more plaintiff-friendly than those in the United States,  which is why some stateside clients choose to file overseas when circumstances permit. That said, so-called libel tourism is frowned upon, universally. As such, though it has been done, it’s difficult to get a commonwealth court to accept a foreign case, especially since the libel reforms of 2013.

Speak With An International Online Defamation Attorney

Do you need to speak with an attorney who understands the legal nature of online reputation attacks? If yes, contact Kelly Warner Law. Our firm has successfully handled hundreds of Internet defamation and trade libel cases. A top Av-rated firm, Kelly Warner lawyers are known for their attention to detail and creative solutions.

Pick up the phone – or Skype – to begin the conversation.

 

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Patient v. Doctor Defamation Lawsuits: Case Study & Attorney Contact

patient v. doctor defamation
Patient v. Doctor Defamation Case Study

Two years ago, a Virginian named D.B. was readying himself for a colonoscopy. Before going under, knowing he’d be knocked out via anesthesia – and probably groggy upon waking – D.B. activated his phone’s recording feature and slipped it into his pocket. But little did D.B. know that the recording would result in a $500,000 malpractice and defamation award.[1]

Doctors’ Discussion Leads to Patient Defamation Lawsuit

According to the Washington Post, during the procedure, two of D.B.’s attending doctors exchanged hurtful barbs about their patient. They said things like:

  • “After five minutes of talking to you in pre-op, I wanted to punch you in the face and man you up a little bit.”
  • In response to an allegedly non-contagious rash the patient had on his body, the medical professionals’ commented, “some syphilis on your arm or something” and “It’s probably tuberculosis in the penis, so you’ll be all right.”
  • One of the doctors also criticized patients, in general, for “too much Internet use, [and] a little too much information.”

When D.B. listened to the playback, he was dismayed to discover his doctors’ arguably unprofessional and possibly defamatory conversation. He decided to file a lawsuit.

The Trial & Doctors’ Defense Arguments

At the onset of the trial, the judge dismissed one of the accused doctors from the case.[2]

After the paring, according to reports, the remaining plaintiffs sought a case dismissal; their attorneys argued that the recording was inadmissible since the doctors didn’t consent to its making. But the defense rationalization ultimately failed, because Virginia is a “one-party consent” state, meaning only one person needs to be aware of a recording for it to be admissible in legal proceedings.

Jury Compromise in Doctor Defamation Case

After a 3-day trial, the jury came to a compromise. The twelve men and women decided on a $500,000 award for the plaintiff, D.B. — $100,000 for defamation, $200,000 for malpractice, plus $200,000 in punitive damages. The jury also recommended that a facility at which one of the doctors worked pony up $50,000 of the punitive penalty.

Initially, D.B. asked for $1.75 million lawsuit claiming both defamation and malpractice, but the jury only awarded him $500,000. Why the downgrade? According to juror Farid Khairzada, the group was divided. But eventually, the twelve men and women compromised. Khairzada explained:[2]

“We finally came to a conclusion that we have to give him something, just to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”

At the time of this writing, media outlets were unable to get quotes from the defeated defendants. It’s unclear, at this time, if they’ll appeal.

What Makes This Doctor Defamation Case Worth Blogging About?

This doctor defamation lawsuit is instructive in that it highlights three important fundamentals of U.S. slander and libel law.

  • Not Many People Have to Hear or Read Something for It to Be Defamatory: In D.B.’s case, even though the comments weren’t broadcast to a large audience, they were still deemed defamatory. Comments don’t need to be heard or read by a lot of people for a judge or jury to consider them libelous or slanderous; a handful of doctors and assistants in the room heard the statements, which was enough for a defamation ruling.
  • Defamation Plaintiffs Must Prove Harm: To win a slander or libel lawsuit in the U.S., plaintiffs must prove that they suffered material or reputational harm. The exception is defamation per se. Defamation per se is a category of slander or libel in which the plaintiff doesn’t have to prove harm because the statement is considered inherently defamatory. Accusing someone of having a loathsome disease often qualifies as defamation per se in states that recognize the distinction. In this example case, the doctors intimated that the patient had syphilis and tuberculosis.
  • Professional Privilege Plays A Role In Defamation Lawsuits: At times, defamation lawsuits against doctors are thrown out on account of professional or patient privilege. But, in the example case, since the statements under review fell outside the scope of the colonoscopy, the chatter was not deemed privileged.

D.B. said he felt “verbally brutalized” and suffered from anxiety and insomnia on account of the event.

Talk With An Attorney Who Has Handled Medical Defamation Cases

Kelly Warner lawyers regularly work with medical professionals and patients facing  reputation challenges. A top AV-rated practice, our team has earned a solid reputation amongst colleagues and clients alike. To speak with someone who can help solve a defamation issue, contact us.

Doctor Defamation Article Sources:
[1] Jackman, T. (2015, June 23). Anesthesiologist trashes sedated patient – and it ends up costing her. Retrieved July 12, 2015, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/anesthesiologist-trashes-sedated-patient-jury-orders-her-to-pay-500000/2015/06/23/cae05c00-18f3-11e5-ab92-c75ae6ab94b5_story.html
[2] Garcia, A. (2015, June 23). Virginia man awarded $500,000 after catching doctors on tape mocking him during surgery. Retrieved July 12, 2015, from http://www.rawstory.com/2015/06/virginia-man-awarded-500000-after-catching-doctors-on-tape-mocking-him-during-surgery/

Ripoff Report Updates Long-Standing Removal Policy

ripoff report removal lawyer
Ripoff Report Removal & Redaction

For the past five years, Ripoff Report’s (ripoffreport.com) removal policy has been a hot topic of debate in the business community. The consumer review website has had a reputation amongst some business owners for not removing any postings – even defamatory ones. In the past, people who wanted to challenge a claim were welcome to post rebuttals and tell their sides of their stories, but the site has always maintained a strict hands-off policy with regards to redacting posts.

Regardless of peoples’ opinions, Ripoff Report’s removal position was (and still is) solid and supported by numerous federal and state laws.

Did Ripoff Report Change Its Removal Policy?

Recently, Ripoff Report has made some significant changes to their redaction policies. Although the arbitration program and corporate advocacy programs are still options, Ripoff Report has recently made a change regarding the redaction of certain information that has been found to be defamatory by a court. According to a Ripoff Report executive, team members at the consumer review portal are still working on implementing a new procedure in which they would voluntarily honor certain court orders under very specific, limited, circumstances. The executive said the policy change was prompted by “respect for the courts and the judicial process.” This is a significant change for Ripoff Report, and should have a positive impact going forward for small businesses that take action against defamatory reviews via the judicial process.

Ripoff Report Will Not Honor All “Removal” Court Orders

Must Mention Defamation

At the very least, for Ripoff Report to even consider honoring a court order, it must specifically mention claims or statements as defamatory or libelous. Even then, it’s unlikely that site administrators will remove the whole report. According to Ripoff Report, the site will give court orders “special prominence” on the relevant pages, and will “redact the information specifically identified as false” under extreme enough circumstances.

We can confirm that Ripoff Report will, indeed, do this in very limited circumstances, and obtained a favorable result for a client very recently. Since every case is different, you shouldn’t assume the same results.

Mandatory Court

Ripoff Report’s new removal policy limits itself to cases where both sides have presented their arguments in court – and then the court found against the author of the contested posting. Default judgments will probably not be accepted. Still, the change is a step forward for those who have been defamed on ripoffreport.com.

Speak To A Ripoff Report Removal Lawyer

Is a false posting on Ripoff Report causing your business hardship? The attorneys at Kelly Warner Law have worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs and businesses in mitigating the effects of defamatory online consumer reviews. If you’ve been “hit,” contact our ripoffreport.com removal attorneys; they’ll be able to review the specifics of your situation and may be able to guide you towards an effective outcome.

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Defamation Law: Is It Defamatory To Say People Were Fired If They Quit?

is it defamatory to say people were fired if they quit
Is it defamatory to say people were fired if they quit? A new lawsuit probes the question.

Is it defamatory to say people were fired if they quit? Former PayPal employee Rakesh Agrawal is testing the legal waters to find out.

Resignations + New Phones + New Orleans / Twitter = Online Defamation Lawsuit

Our story starts the day that Rakesh Agrawal, then director of strategy for PayPal Inc., decided to pull a Jerry McGuire and quit his job in spectacular fashion. Agrawal’s public resignation play? He posted a copy of his “I’m outta here!” letter online.

A day later, Agrawal found himself at the New Orleans Jazz Fest – with a brand new (Chekhov’s) phone. Presumably, jocularity ensued. And by the wee hours of the morning, Agrawal had tweeted a 140-character rant about PayPal’s then global brand and communications officer. The highlights: “piece of $#!+” and “useless middle manager”.

By sun-up, Agrawal had deleted his tirade.

But it turns out that the Watcher in PayPal’s Woods spied Agrawal’s rant before he removed it. And with a dash of middle school ‘tude, the official PayPal Twitter account coughed up this finger wag:

“Rakesh Agrawal is no longer with the company. Treat everyone with respect. No excuses. PayPal has zero tolerance.”

Is It Defamatory To Say People Were Fired If They Quit? I’m Going To File A Lawsuit To Find Out.

When Agrawal heard about PayPal’s “zero tolerance” message, he took things next level and filed a defamation lawsuit against his former employer. Agrawal’s arguments are simple (perhaps to a fault – and of course, we’re paraphrasing here):

  • New Phone Defense: Those were supposed to be private messages, not public tweets! Look, I was using a new phone, of course I messed up!
  • I Blinked First Argument: PayPal never fired me. I quit! And posted a resignation letter a full day before PayPal’s tweet about me!
  • Lost Opportunities: PayPal is making it seem like they fired me for ‘misconduct and disrespect’; it’s misleading and resulted in lost opportunities.

Can An Ex-Employee Win A Twitter Defamation Case Against A Former Employer?

So, does Agrawal have a viable Twitter defamation case? While it’s never wise to augur a judge’s ruling – because the legal devil is always in the brief details – it’s fair to say that Agrawal will have to do some strenuous uphill climbing to win this case. Why?

Carefully Worded Statements v. Reasonable Understanding

For starters, PayPal’s tweet didn’t, specifically tweet: “PayPal fired X because of Y.” Instead, the company went with a carefully worded passage informing readers that Agrawal “was no longer with the company” – which could either mean he was fired or quit. And in defamation cases, judges are required to assume the most innocent interpretation.

Agrawal argues, via his lawsuit, that PayPal’s tweet is:

“reasonably understood by those who read it to mean that plaintiff had been fired by PayPal for misconduct and disrespect.”

But, when weighing defamation case law against the known facts of this case, the argument probably won’t hold up because it’s too subjective an assertion.

Moreover, to win, Agrawal, at the very least, will have to prove:

  • That the PayPal tweet contained a false statement of fact about him. Sure, there is such a thing as “defamation by implication,” but this case doesn’t have the meat needed to make a convincing defamation by implication claim. Especially since U.S. case law demands that the most innocent interpretation be assumed.
  • That PayPal acted negligently in sending out the tweet.
  • That PayPal’s tweet led to material or reputational harm for Agrawal. Lawyers for the plaintiff could try to argue defamation per se, meaning argue that the PayPal tweet was inherently defamatory because it disparaged Agrawal’s professionalism, but it’d be a coin toss as to whether or not a judge – and eventually appeal’s panel – would be convinced by the argument.

But hey, you never know. Sometime the courts surprise.

Reputations are priceless. And in today’s viral market, success involves maintaining a good name. Kelly / Warner is a leader in the internet defamation litigation and reputation management industry. We’ve helped over 800 brands with digital defamation clean-up in the wake of a disparaging campaign or incident.

Contact us to find out how we can revive your good reputation.

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“Is it defamatory to say people were fired if they quit?” is just one of the common slander and libel questions we often field. Check out our blog for more defamation case examples and lawyer advice.

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Is A Nevada Defamation Law Change On The Way?

Nevada defamation law
Is a Nevada defamation law change coming? Will it be a positive move for small businesses in the state?

If Nevada’s defamation bill SB444 passes, it’ll be easier for businesses to protect their online reputations.

True Issue at the Root of Nevada’s Defamation Debate: How Easy Should It Be for Businesses to Sue Online Reviewers?

Should businesses be able to sue customers for leaving bad reviews? What about customers who temporarily part ways with sanity, make  friends with a bottle of pinot,  and decide to spend the night anonymously misdirecting personal frustrations at the Internet in the form of SCREAM TYPED tall tales and fibs about businesses or a nemesis?

In Nevada, lawmakers are tackling the question.

Within the context of the state’s Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) statute, legislators are, essentially, debating where the free speech line ends and the defamation line begins.

Is Nevada’s SB444 Pro Small Business?

Nevada State Bill 444 could be seen as a “pro-SMB” bill, as its goal is to “balance” the law books, making it possible for genuinely wronged businesses to sue online detractors who lie about services or products.

If passed, the law would weaken Nevada’s current SLAPP statute by requiring less pretrial demonstrations of case fitness. As a result, more business plaintiffs could move forward with slander and libel lawsuits against online defamers instead of having the claims quashed early in the litigation process.

Nevada Defamation Bill Already Passed, But Now There Are Some SLAPP Problems

A couple of months ago, Nevada legislators actually passed SB444, unanimously. But since gavel, opposition groups have stepped in – and now Nevadan politicians are arguing about defamation law.

What would happen is SB444 Passes?

If the Nevada defamation bill is green lit, Nevada’s anti-SLAPP law would lose some litigation weight, if you will. Opponents argue that weakening it would be a palpable blow to constitutional rights. SB444 Proponents, however, think SB444 brings “much needed balance” to the state’s slander and libel standards, which will ultimately help small business owners effectively deal with malicious defamers.

Click here to learn more about Nevada’s slander and libel laws. If you need to speak with a defamation lawyer about a case involving a Nevada business or person, get in touch.

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Texas Defamation Law Change: Whistle-blowing Parameters

Texas defamation law change whistle blowing
Texas’ libel law has been updated.

Texas journalists and bloggers no longer have to cower in the face of whistle-blowing reports, because legislators have adopted an amendment to the Texas defamation law. From now on, journalists in the Lone Star State can report on corporate whistle-blowing speculations and scandals — without fear of a being slapped with a questionable lawsuit.

Texan Reporters Accused of Defamation on the Regular by Deep Pocketed Parties

All state defamation laws must stick to the framework of the federal standard, but state slander and libel laws tend to feature a twist – a legal accessory that sparkles with regional flair. For example, in stoic, British-emulating Massachusetts, in some instances, a plaintiff can win a defamation lawsuit even if the defendant is telling the truth. And in no-tattle Texas, state defamation laws meant journalists often held back on stories involving whistle blowers, for fear of being hit with a costly – job threatening – defamation lawsuit.

Defamation Bill Approved By Texas Senate: Affects Whistle-blowing Defamation Cases

In 2014, the Supreme Court of Texas made a decision that prompted a law change regarding certain aspects of whistle-blowing defamation cases. Due to the way the law was written, journalists were being found liable for libel, even though their stories were based on solid reporting work; they were being punished, despite engaging in proper due diligence, when their sources got information wrong.

In a way, the previous Texas defamation law was the State’s free speech pink elephant. One of the bill’s authors, Sen. Joan Huffman, articulated the need for the change when she explained: “accuracy in reporting [should be] a defense to libel.”

And from here on out accurate reporting will be an workable defense against defamation in Texas, as the governor signed the bill into law at the end of May.

Speak With A Texas Defamation Lawyer

Though based in Arizona, Kelly / Warner lawyers are licensed to practice in Texas. We have helped hundreds of clients with all manners of online defamation and reputation issues. Contact us to begin the conversation.

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Finance Analyst Awarded Millions In Professional Defamation Ruling

professional defamation case study
A young banker is several million dollars in the green thanks to a favorable defamation ruling.

A finance broker sued colleagues for professional defamation and won millions of dollars in damages. The reputation-related case serves as a cautionary tale against workplace gossiping.

Meet Svetlana Lokhova: Finance Prodigy & Reputation Attack Victim

With a history degree in hand, Svetlana Lokhova – a Cambridge University grad – eschewed ruins for rubles when she took a job with big money brokerage firm Sberbank CIB.

Moving On Up The Corporate Ladder

Go-getter Lokhova quickly climbed the Sberbank rungs; within a few years, she was banking the big bucks. But Lokhova’s meteoric rise was not without turbulence. According to reports, she locked horns with colleagues over insider trading allegations, and eventually opted to alert authorities about the indiscretions.

Whistleblowing

In the whistleblowing wake, things at the office became untenable for the academic-turned-banker. According to Lokhova, colleagues attacked her reputation, mercilessly. Hecklers taunted: “Mad Svetlana”, “Miss Dodgy Septum” and “Crazy Miss Cokehead”. The Sberbank bullies even went so far as to label Lokhova a “chemically dependent…b*tch” and “major car crash”.

Workplace Gossip Becomes Brutal

Work became a living nightmare for Lokhova, and the office atmosphere had a “seriously detrimental effect on [her] health.” According to her, the situation also triggered “chronic and long-term symptoms” that drove her to “mental collapse”.

But instead of letting her detractors get the better of her, Lokhova fought back via a legal action.

The Central London Employment Tribunal Weighs In On Lokhova’s Professional Defamation Case

Lokhova took her case to the Central London Employment Tribunal (CLET), an official body, with authority to rule on certain workplace legal disputes. Preemptively, Lokhova took a drug test – and passed – to prove the addiction accusations false. After reviewing the facts, the CLET sided with Lokhova, awarding her a total of $2.3 million.

Though pleased with the decision, Lokhova lamented that she “could never return to financial services again” because “everybody knows everybody’s business in banking and people believe there is no smoke without fire. My reputation has been shredded.”

Maturely, instead of decrying the tribunal’s ruling, a Sberbank spokesperson vowed that the finance firm is “committed to take on board any lessons to be learned.”

Speak With A Professional Defamation Lawyer

A pioneer in the field of Internet defamation law, Kelly / Warner Law has successfully handled hundreds of reputation-related cases for finance professionals and firms. We pride ourselves on resolving challenges quickly – and in our clients’ favor.

Click here learn more about our trade libel and professional defamation legal practice. If you’re ready to speak with an attorney, contact us; one of our experienced lawyers will be in touch within hours.

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Think Before You .SUCK

.suck website legalities
.Suck websites are here. But before you take revenge on a rival, read about the potential legal ramifications over going overboard with a “suck site”.

They’re heeerrrreeee…..

Ladies and gents, we’re entering a new era of the Internet. For some time now, we’ve been freed from boring, generic top-level domains, like .com, .net, .org and .biz. Now, we can feast on spicy gTLDs, like .tv and .[your hometown].

And digital things are about to get more attention-grabbing, because .suck is now an available option. [Get ready judges, because we sense a new wave of Internet defamation lawsuits is on the way.]

Vox Populi Registry Ltd. “owns” the rights to the new gTLD — and is responsible for the roll out. The company makes money any time someone buys a .suck website.

How Much Do  The “Suck Sites” Cost?

Currently, .suck domains are only available to celebrities and trademark holders. This rarefied group must shell out around $2,000 per URL. According to reports, the company selling the .suck domains priced them high to deter malicious, cybersquatting actions.

In September, however, we “regulars” who want to own the .suck sites, for our businesses or names, can buy them for $9.95. However, if you choose this option, forget about using a website design of your choosing. Instead, you’re limited to using the registrar’s generic forum platform.

Is The .Suck Scheme a “Predatory Shakedown”? The Mega-Corps Think So.

Guess who isn’t happy about the .suck top-level domain option? Giant corporations, including Microsoft, Ebay and Verizon.

The mega-corps are so concerned about .suck sites that they’ve sicked one of their lobbying groups on the issue. Formally, the group has asked that the .suck roll out be postponed, calling it a “predatory…shakedown scheme.” Moreover, the companies believe that the general sign-up set to commence in September is “an essential element of Vox Populi’s coercive scheme.”

And the big wigs may get their way, as ICANN has yet to shoot down the lobby group’s request. As you probably already imagined, Vox Populi insists that it isn’t doing anything against the law or ICANN regulations.

The Consequences of an Ill-Advised .Suck Website

If you’re reading this, licking your revenge chops, and thinking: “Yes! I am so getting a .suck site to berate [insert name of enemy or business you hate],” you may want to slow your .suck roll.

Why?

Because you could find yourself on the losing side of a lawsuit.

What you can be charged with if you go too far with your .suck site about a person or business:

  • Defamation: It’s not illegal to say something negative about another person or business, but it is illegal to make a malicious, unprivileged, false statement of fact about another person or businesses.
  • False Light: In some jurisdictions, it’s illegal to paint an inaccurate picture of an individual that damages their reputation.
  • Trade Libel: Spreading untruths about a service or business is considered product disparagement, and it’s against the law.
  • Online Harassment: Threatening, stalking or otherwise mercilessly harassing a person is squarely illegal in every state.
  • Cyberbullying: Some jurisdictions have cyberbullying laws on the books that can be used for various types of online harassment.
  • Revenge Porn: Every week, another state is ratifying a revenge porn law. For an updated list, head here.

Get In Touch With An Internet Lawyer

Kelly / Warner Law is an Internet law firm. We work with both individuals and businesses that are dealing with online legal issues. To learn more about the firm, click here. To get in touch, click here. To set up a consultation, click here.

Thanks to our nationwide network of attorneys, Kelly / Warner handle cases in all 50 U.S. states. We also work with businesses based in Europe, Canada, Asia and Australia. Contact us.
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ATTN DENTISTS: YOUR PATIENT CONTRACT MAY BE MOOT

dentist patient contract law
A popular dentist contract, which addressed online reviews, is now unenforceable.

ATTN DENTISTS: If you’re using a patient contract that asserts copyright ownership of online reviews, it’s time to get it updated. Why? Because judges have decided that those types of agreements are no longer enforceable.

Doctor and Dentist Patient Contract That Confer Copyrights of Online Reviews

In the not too distant past, and in an effort to curtail negative online reviews, many dentists used a patient contract with an online copyright clause. Essentially, patients signed away their copyrights to online reviews regarding the dentist’s performance – good or bad.

Why?

Because if someone posted a negative review, the dentist could simply submit a DMCA take down request to get the bad evaluation removed from the Web. Some contracts even included a clause asserting a fee for every day the negative review remained online.

Used To Work, But Judges Caught On, And Are Now Putting An End To It

Once patients clued in to the parameters of these “patient copyright contracts,” they rang the caveat emptor alarms. Quickly, and due to lawsuits, judges were able to weigh in on the validity of these contracts.

The Judges’ overwhelming verdicts? These types of patient contracts are not enforceable because, in the United States, you can’t preemptively extinguish someone’s free speech rights.

Patient: 1, Dentist: 0

Recently, a new York court heard a patient v. dentist online review case. Ultimately, the judge ruled that the contract – which claimed copyrights and forbade future negative reviews – was unconstitutional and unenforceable.

In the judge’s exact words:

“[Online copyright control contracts] constitute breaches of fiduciary duty and violations of dental ethics and are subject to the equitable defenses of unclean hands, and, as to such assignment and assertion, constitute copyright misuse.”

In this case, however, no money will likely exchange hands because three years ago the dentist involved vanished; never to be heard from again.

Speak With A Dentist Defamation Lawyer

Kelly / Warner Law works with both doctors and patients. We’ve helped medical professionals get negative reviews removed from the Internet, and we’ve also assisted patients who’ve been unfairly sued for online defamation over a less-than-glowing missives.

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To learn more about our online defamation practice, click here. If you’re ready to speak with one of our experienced lawyers with patient contract drafting experience, set up a consultation. Contact us.