Dental Marketing Gone Bad: Dentist Threatens Lawsuit for Negative Review

Dental Marketing Gone Bad: Dentist Threatens Lawsuit for Negative ReviewThe most costly dental marketing mistake could be threatening to sue your dental patients.  And once again, a dentist is making front-page news with her challenge against a negative dental review on Yelp.

ABC News is reporting that Stacy Makhnevich, DDS, threatened to sue dental patient Robert Allen Lee for posting critical comments about Dr. Makhnevich on Yelp and DoctorBase.

According to ABC News the problem began in 2010, when Robert Lee went into Dr. Makhnevich’s office for a scheduled dentist’s appointment. Lee claims he was in excruciating pain when he was told he had to sign a Mutual Agreement to Maintain Privacy form, before being treated. The privacy form required that Lee agree not to publish any commentary or write anything disparaging about his experience online.

Lee further states that although he was hesitant to sign this form, he was desperate to receive treatment and gave in to agreeing to sign the form.

Lee became unhappy when there was a mishap with billing his insurance company and he couldn’t get Dr. Makhnevich’s office to rectify the situation to his satisfaction, Lee wrote negative reviews about Dr. Makhnevich and her practice on Yelp and DoctorBase.

Both ABC News and Public Citizen are reporting that Makhnevich sent a letter to Lee demanding that he delete the negative posts, warning him that he violated the agreement he signed and threatened to sue him for breach of contract. Dr. Makhnevich also contacted the review sites and asked for Lee’s negative comments to be removed.

Both Yelp.com and DoctorBase refused to take down the negative reviews, but Makhneich reportedly claimed that a copyright clause gave her ownership of the negative comments. She then went on to send Lee an invoice for $100 for each day the negative remarks remained online.

Lee has now taken legal action against the doctor by filing a lawsuit in the US District Court of the Southern District of New York, accusing Stacy Makhnevich, DDS, of violating his rights as a patient by threatening him with a lawsuit for posting negative comments online.

As we have reported here on The Wealthy Dentist in the past, dentists have not been successful in court when suing patients directly for their negative online reviews. Recently in California a dentist who sued a patient now has to pay $80,000 in legal fees, not just to the patient who posted the review, but also to Yelp itself.

In the article, Dental Marketing: A Guide for Avoiding Negative Online Reviews, The Wealthy Dentist has offered dentists advice on how to handle a negative online review — and threatening to sue the patient was not listed as a viable dental marketing option.

What are your thoughts on negative online reviews and the sites that allow them?

For more on this story see: Dentist Threatens to Sue Patient for Negative Yelp Review and Doc Sued Over Attempts to Prohibit Patients From Writing Online Reviews.

About Jim Du Molin

+Jim Du Molin is a leading Internet marketing expert for dentists in North America. He has helped hundreds of doctors make more money in their practices using his proven Internet marketing techniques.

  • Mornglory40

    The neg review we received on yelp could not of come from one of our pateints, or she lied about where she lived and her name, as the reviewer claimed in her profile to live in a totally different state from our dental practice and we didn’t and don’t have a patient with her name. 

    i looked her up and she appeared to be a professional yelp reviewer having hundreds of reveiws for businesses across the country.

    on yelp, i was unable to post a doctor reply, eventhough i set up a yelp account, just a free one, refusing to pay the expensive costs yelp wanted for us to advertise with them.  repeated attempts to contact yelp failed to yield help to access the account, so all we could do was ignore the post and also never use yelp.

    another doctor site, don’t recall the name, had a very negative review of our office, but after thoroughly reviewing our patients for the time frame the reviewer claims to have come to our office, we could not find a new patient (which this person claimed to have been) who had received the treatment they claimed.  we did not have a patient with the name they also claimed on line.

    we have had several sites with very positive reviews from our patients, so i guess it balances out.
    s

  • Abc

    Legitimate negative reviews are one thing.  My gripe with Yelp is that they are able to screen reviews.  When I refused to advertise with them, my 4 and 5 star reviews were taken off line and only the one bad review remained.  Coincidental?  So they say.  “It’s the algorithm that determines which reviews are filtered out.

    Yelp needs advertising dollars to stay in business and this is just an example of the mob requiring “Protection Money”

  • BC

    Yelp should be renamed ‘YIKES’.  Before rushing to push your Google placement by accepting any type of online review, a prudent business owner would sit back, let the dust settle, and determine what kind of business relationship one is assuming, particulary a ‘free’ relationship.

  • Amandine

    I’m in the patient’s situation and I can tell you it is scary! Just received a letter from my dentist’s Lawyer asking me to remove negative reviews I posted online… The dentist had given me a quote of over $3000 to treat 7 cavities that he “showed” me on the X-Rays and had to be treated ASAP. I got pregnant and cancelled the appointments that I had lined up. I went to a new dentist after my baby was born and he had great news for me: absolutely no cavity!! I was in so shocked!!… Do you really want this dentist to be out there doing things like that? Should I remove my reviews just because he is threatening me of a lawsuit for defamation (I called him a crook… do you see another appropriate term for what he was going to do?). What would have happened during the appointments I had lined up? Was he going to dig holes in my prerfectly sane teeth to make it look like there had been cavities there? scary scary scary… I have 2 more days to remove the negative reviews but I’m really considering leaving them up and going to Court, as much I don’t want to go though that, I really think I have to speak up! Any advice is welcome! What would you do?

  • Cath

    Thank you for all you comments.

    @Amadine, you will note that we titled this piece, “dental marketing gone bad” because we are all for dentists trying to work things out with an unhappy patient away from a review site.  Review sites are great for restaurants and the hospitality industry for things like service and food — not for personal attacks on individuals — and the restaurant/hospitality owners can make the appropriate changes.  It wouldn’t be that hard to “improve the taste of a hamburger” if enough people offered what they don’t like about it.

    When it comes to businesses that involve dentists and doctors, there are privacy concerns which prevent them from being able to address your concerns in a public forum, and having a debate on a review website does nothing to improve the situation.

    Better to write the doctor involved and see what can be worked out.  In the worst-case-scenario it would probably be better to go to small claims court when there is money involved and allow a judge to handle it.

    Quite often a negative reviewer appears over-zealous and people end up thinking it is more about personal style than a bad experience, even if the reviewer is in the right.  It is certainly something that deserves an exchange of ideas on how better to handle these types of situations.
     
    Cath

  • Amandine

    thanks Cath, I completely understand your point but not everybody is ready to spend time and money in Court. Online reviews would have no purpose if only positive ones were allowed. My story is true, I’m sure that you and others dentist on here are not drilling holes in people’s sane teeth for money. I also think that many dentist would like to see the profession rid off individuals who call this dentistry.

  • anonymous

    just to follow up with facts: I did remove the negative reviews under the dentist’s insistant threat of a lawsuit. I was unable to remove the bad grade from BBB since they do their own investigation and have found my story to be true. I received Court documents yesterday and I am still being sued for “defamation” by this dentist who is trying to obtain over $25,000.00 from me! So I’m not sure who appears to be “over-zealous”… but I can tell you that having to hire a lawyer and pay a $3,000.00 retainer for such a ridiculous lawsuit really doesn’t seem right! I sure hope my complaint to the Board of Dentists leads to the removal of his license. I haven’t given any name, so I’m hoping this cannot be used against me… but who knows… I’ve never had any issue with justice and never even set a foot in Court. Now having to go because I went and tried to warn people by telling my story. This really doesn’t feel right.

  • Catherine

    Anon, thank you for your comment.  Again, we do not support litigation as a way for dentists to deal with a negative review, unless there is out-and-out defamation of character and it is provable in court.  In California, the courts have sided with the review posters against the dentists involved in the most public of online review cases.

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