You’re a plastic surgeon who recently operated on a woman named Cruella. Faithful to her name, Cruella likes to complain – even when there’s nothing to criticize! And after working with you, Cruella posted exaggerated gripes about your practice.
So, the question is: Can you sue Cruella for online defamation? Could you win?
What happens if a patient leaves a scathing online review about your plastic surgery practice?
Yes, you’re absolutely entitled to pursue a defamation lawsuit against patients who post libelous missive. That said, it’s important to understand the difference between defamation and a negative opinion.DEFAMATION A false statement of fact OPINION A subjective assessment
What is the likelihood of a doctor winning a plastic surgery defamation case against a disgruntled patient?
What’s the biggest mistake plastic surgeons make when it comes to defamation lawsuits against patient? They sue over negative opinions.
Remember, legally speaking, defamation is a lie – not a nasty judgment.
What must plaintiffs must prove to win an online review defamation claim? That:
- They were the subject of the post;
- The post contained a false statement of fact that caused professional harm;
- The defendants negligently or purposefully posted the offending statements.
Plastic Surgery Defamation Case Study: Loftus v. Nazari – A Cautionary Tale For Plastic Surgeons
In 2006, Catherine Nazari walked into the office of Dr. Jean Loftus. She wanted a breast lift, implants, a double arm lift, and a “tummy tuck.” Surgery ensued, but Nazari wasn’t happy with the results. In 2010, the disgruntled patient started littering doctor review websites with negative posts about her surgeon.
A sampling of her disparaging comments:“only to be left with permanent nerve damage in both arms (arm lift) severe abdominal pain (tummy tuck) horrible scars and disfigured in both breast [sic] (breast implants, breast lift)as [sic] a result of her mistakes. As a result of the surgeries preformed [sic] by Dr. Loftus I was left having to file for Total Disability.”I had plastic surgery due too [sic] losing a lot of weight and was not happy with the sagging skin I was left with. I thought that if I had the surgery It would raise my self confiedence [sic] and improve my appearance. If I could go back in time, I would not have done it. I had breast implants and a Breast lift and was left with horrible scars and disfigurement, a tummy tuck that left me with severe abdominal pain that is still present today, I had arm [sic] lift in both arms that caused permanent nerve damage in both arms and there [sic] nothing that a consumer can do. All of my surgeries were preformed [sic] the same day by a Dr. Jean Loftus in Ft. Wright, KY. 99% of all medical malpractice cases never make it to a hearing, let alone a trial. I have filed complaints with the US Attorney in Washington, DC and they referred me to the Ohio Medical Board to file a complaint. I also filed a lawsuit with Bob Handleman in Columbus, OH only to have nothing done and my case was dismissed without prejudice. On October 22, [*2] 2010 I received a letter from the Ohio Medical Board that NO disciplinary actions would be taken regarding Dr. Loftus. I guess it is true what Ralph Nader says on his site, that State Medical Boards are like FOXES GUARDING THE HENS. These doctors should be held accountable for their mistakes and not be covered up.my medical records were stolen from a friend and colleague of hers, Dr. Rank O. Dawson a plastic surgeon of Cincinnati, OH.
But guess what? The judge ruled no-go; not defamatory. Why? Because the overtly overwrought rants would probably make a “reasonable person” take a step back and, shall we say, question the author’s use of hyperbole. Moreover, since the statements appeared on an “opinion website,” the judge said it would be “the natural tendency…to infer that they are opinion.”
Research Matters, Even If The Facts Are Wrong
If a defendant imparts inaccurate facts, but can prove they engaged in proper research, the defendant can win. In Loftus v. Nazari, the defendant’s free speech rights trumped the plastic surgeon’s. And since the Nazari truly believed her statement, the judge sided with her.
Not All Defamation Lawsuits Are Created Equal. Just Because One Person Ducked Damages, Doesn’t Mean You Don’t Have A Viable Case
Does this mean you shouldn’t pursue an online defamation case? Absolutely not. Many plastic surgeons win – or at the very least succeed in getting disparaging material removed from the Internet.
Do you have a plastic surgery defamation problem? Get in touch with Kelly / Warner Law, today. We can help clear any legal hurdles slowing you down.