Gynecologist Suing Patient for $1 Million for Negative Yelp Review
Is it reasonable to sue someone over a bad Yelp review?
A Manhattan woman is being sued for $1 million after she posted a negative Yelp review of a business.
Michelle Levine visited gynecologist Dr. Joon Song for an annual checkup, but she was unexpectedly given an ultrasound and her insurance was billed over $1,700. The insurance didn’t cover all of it and she was sent a bill herself for nearly $500. She says she was billed for a pelvic examination, which was not administered, and when she called to complain, the staff was aggressive. This was all very outrageous to her, so she wrote several negative reviews.
Not too long later, she was hit with a defamation lawsuit for $1 million. Levine removed her negative reviews, but Dr. Song is pressing forward with the lawsuit. One of the main points of disagreement between Levine and Song is the ultrasound. Levine’s insurance doesn’t cover ultrasounds as part of an annual check-up, and she didn’t understand why she was getting one in the first place. But, a message from Dr. Song’s office says: “we do evaluations with a sonogram for all initial visits.”
Complicating things even further is another comment from Dr. Song’s office saying that the ultrasound was performed because Levine complained about cramps. Levine says she’s already spent $20,000 in legal fees defending herself and thinks she’ll have to spend much more money before the ordeal is over. She’s established a GoFundMe page, hoping to raise $80,000 for her legal defense. She says if she’s victorious and the court awards her any money, she will donate up to 20% after taxes to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Medical Women’s Association. If she doesn’t win… well, she’s going to need a bigger GoFundMe page.
Levine has posted a new Yelp review on Dr. Song’s page, arguing she did nothing wrong and that the office is spreading lies about her online, but where does the law side on all of this? This is where Yelp actually chimed in. In a statement, Yelp wrote:
“Several states… have enacted strong anti-SLAPP laws that protect consumers from lawsuits intended solely to silence them for honestly speaking out about their experiences. Unfortunately, New York residents like Ms. Levine don’t currently have the protection of such strong legislation.”
SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, and it refers to a lawsuit where the intent is to silence someone who is speaking out on a matter of public interest, but New York has leaner anti-SLAPP laws than many states, which may give Dr. Song a leg up in his lawsuit. Near the bottom of her initial Yelp review, Levine wrote: “I suspect that this doctor gives unnecessary procedures to a lot of people and then charges the insurance sky high prices and no one knows the difference.” This, Dr. Song’s lawyers could argue, is a slanderous claim without evidence.
CBS New York talked to some legal experts who said you should avoid making broad conclusions or speculations in online reviews. So, if you go to a restaurant and find a bunch of fingernails in your food, you can write that, but if that didn’t happen and you’re doing it as a joke, you can get into serious trouble.
Yelp is now monitoring Dr. Song’s page, though plenty of people are leaving reviews to drag down his rating to one star.
What do you guys think? Is it reasonable to sue someone over a bad Yelp review? Let us know in the comments below, or on Twitter at @WhatsTrending.