Doctor Sues Patients Over Bad Yelp Reviews

Date: Nov 18, 2010
By: Mike Masnick
Link: Online Story

Doctor Sues Patients Over Bad Yelp Reviews

from the that’s-not-going-to-help dept

We’ve seen all sorts of business owners get upset about Yelp, but it seems to be ratcheting up a notch. For example, take Denver chef, Scott Parker, who lashed out at Yelp reviewers in a recent interview (sent in by visual77). After being asked what he’d like to see less of, he stated:

    Amateur instant online restaurant critics — specifically those who write reviews for a website that rhymes with “kelp.” Think about it: They review a McDonald’s and then turn around and review Mizuna. I just imagine bored, jobless layabouts with not many friends who are convinced that they’re going to have a bad time before they even step through the door of a joint. The kicker is, you can’t respond to these inbreds and try to educate, or at least explain, why some things happen the way they happen. Have a little fun, for chrissakes. Loosen up when you go out, and let me be the stress ball in the kitchen busting my ass for twelve-plus hours trying to make you the best food I can. Fuck you!

This, of course, resulted in a fair amount of Yelp backlash.

Now, I was going to use this as a story to highlight how bitching about your critics could seriously backfire, but before I could finish that post folks started sending over the even more extreme story of a doctor in Chicago suing three patients after they wrote negative reviews. Dr. Jay Pensler apparently felt that these comments were defamatory, though the article seems to suggest that the people who complained appear to have somewhat legitimate gripes. Pensler is a plastic surgeon, and one woman apparently posted a picture showing uneven breasts with nipples that point in different directions — something I could see leading to a negative review.

Of course, this isn’t really a first either. A few months back we posted about another plastic surgeon who sued her patients for bad reviews on Yelp. Either way, it’s difficult to see how that’s going to be good for business. Would you go to a doctor who sued online commenters? It seems like these people just aren’t going to be willing to take much criticism if they do a bad job… Of course, the lawsuits have resulted in a number of people deleting their criticisms of Dr. Pensler, which is probably the point of his lawsuits. Hopefully a bit more attention on the lawsuits themselves will counteract this.

What’s equally troubling, however, is that the court reviewing this case seems to be ignoring the basic First Amendment questions and denied requests to quash the subpoenas in question. It seems like the complaining patients have a pretty strong First Amendment claim to support their anonymity — a claim that many other US courts have supported. It’s a bit worrisome that this court seems to be ignoring that First Amendment right.