Dental Marketing: Lawsuit Looks at Slander in Negative Online Reviews

Dental Marketing: Lawsuit Looks at Slander in Negative Online ReviewsDentists, just when you thought there was no hope for combating negative online reviews, Virginia contractor, Christopher Dietz is suing a former customer, Jane Perez for a negative online reviews she wrote on Yelp and Angie’s list.

What makes this case encouraging is that the judge has already granted Dietz a temporary injunction against Perez and has ordered the ex-client to change her online reviews.

Perez had written online that the contractor not only performed shoddy workmanship, but some of her jewelry had also disappeared. She further wrote, “Bottom line do not put yourself through this nightmare of a contractor.”

Dietz didn’t take her negative posts lightly, and sued Perez, stating that not only had he completed the job as contracted, but performed more work than was agreed upon and still has not been paid.

Deitz further contends that the negative online reviews have cost him about $350,000.00 in business.

Slander is a legal term for stating a falsehood and presenting it as true which could harm the reputation of a person or business. In the case of Perez, if contractor Dietz did not steal any jewelry (and apparently there is no police report stating that he did) then Perez could be found libel for defamation of character and Dietz would be able to collect damages.

Some might argue that the lawsuit seeks to squash Perez’s right to free speech, but freedom of speech does not protect you from the consequences of free speech.

Perez can offer an opinion like, “I was not happy with the quality of work.” But she cannot say things like “He is a ripoff artist who steals from his clients.” One statement is an opinion based on feelings the other is a statement that she’d have to provide proof that he is a “ripoff artist who has been convicted of stealing from clients.” Technically, you can’t bear false witness, so when leaving an online review, the review must stick to the facts, like “I had to wait two hours for my appointment,” or “My steak was medium when I asked for rare,” or “The toy broke the minute my son picked it up,” and so forth.

It’s been difficult for dentists, as well as business owners to get used to the idea that a dental patient or a patron can complain about their business in such a permanent, public way and the courts are scrambling to legally catch up to this new technology.

And lawsuits themselves can bring more unwanted negative publicity.

Deciding to sue can paint a dentist into a more negative light with the general public than the damage done by the negative review, but what does a dentist do if the online review is truly defamatory?

Hiring an attorney to manage the process of suing the reviewer in court can be extremely costly, so a dentist would need to weigh the costs against any revenue loss directly attributed to the negative review.

The Wealthy Dentist has advised dentists to instead use the money to initiate an aggressive Internet dental marketing campaign to counter the review. Immediately addressing the review in a calm manner can also help quickly counter what the reviewer has said.

Typically the general public does not search past page two of online search results and this is where a dental practice’s online engagement can help bury a negative review. Facebook Pages, Twitter pages, YouTube videos, and Pinterest pages all show up high in search.

If a dental practice has taken the time to develop an internet dental marketing plan for their online presence (using the dentist’s name and the dental practice name) they can fill the first page of Google with their own social media presence.

Regularly updating a blog and writing press releases can also help control what dental patients find when they search for a dental practice online.

If need be, dentists can use the money they would spend on an attorney to buy Google ad space for their dental practice covering the dental practice name, the dentist’s name and a geo-targeted search term like “North Beach dentist.” This will place the dental practice at the very top of search for a period of time. If a dental practice can push the negative review site from the first page of search with content and social media they’ve created specifically for dental patients, they can begin to counter the damage caused by a negative online review.

Recent publicity surrounding negative online review sites and their vulnerability to false negative reviews by competition, or personal vendettas have caused people to question the validity and trustworthiness of consumer review sites. Parodies like Joe Plummer’s “Real Actors Read Yelp Reviews” have further shown just how ridiculous online reviews can be and the lack of oversight by the review sites themselves.

Bodyform even got into the act by responding to a Facebook rant with a video parody making fun of the cliches surrounding women’s use of their feminine products while directly answering the review. Their humorous video response quickly went viral.

Keep in mind that a negative online review can add validity to the positive online reviews. It can make a dental practice appear more balanced and one negative online review in the mix will make most people think it was a difficult dental patient instead of a bad dental practice.

But no business should have to deal with slanderous, vindictive reviews and eventually online review sites are going to have to figure out a way to deal with the libelous reviews, regardless of anti-SLAPP. Eventually a business owner will win big over a slanderous review and online review sites will be forced to set stricter review guidelines.

Would you have sued if a dental patient made the same type of claims against your dental practice that Perez made about Deitz?

To read more about contractor Deitz’s lawsuit see: Virginia Contractor Sues Woman for $750,000 for Bad Yelp Review.

Dentist Sues Over Negative Review on Consumer Website

Yelp is a free website where consumers can post reviews of restaurants and stores, places and professionals.

It’s caught on very well in the San Francisco Bay Area, where people use it to find everything from coffee shops and antique stores to doctors and lawyers.

A California pediatric dentist recently made headlines for suing a couple for defamation after they posted negative reviews about the dentist on Yelp.

After the dentist treated their son, the boy’s parents complained about the doctor’s treatment, upset that the boy was light-headed after receiving laughing gas and expressing outrage that the dentist placed a dental filling that contained mercury in their son’s mouth.

Misplaced Consumer Anger

It’s easy for an educated dentist to assume that most people realize that silver fillings are composed of an amalgam that includes mercury. But this case highlights how no one should assume that consumers know the facts. In this case, the dentist had the parents sign a consent form that disclosed the mercury content. The parents’ review said they had not been told of the mercury content.

The parents’ comments also indicated that their son was woozy after receiving “general anesthesia” from the dentist. The dentist’s suit states, “Plaintiff could lose her license to practice if she gave her patients general anesthesia. Dr. Wong only uses laughing gas (nitrous oxide) and oxygen.”

Yelp strives to maintain a “hands-off” policy, and did not take down the review as the dentist had requested. Actually, the dentist didn’t quite request so much as demand… Here’s the ineffective note she wrote to Yelp:

The review by T. J. on 9/10/2008 is full of lies and misinformation. When a disgruntled patient makes false accusations against me, I cannot refute these charges on your website because I must protect my patient’s privacy. I demand that you take this review down immediately.

The dentist’s attorney initially filed suit against Yelp as well, but later acknowledged that he had not been aware that websites offering third-party content are legally protected.

Everybody’s Doing It

In a recent survey of the Chicago Dental Society, 11% of responding dentists said they sometimes scan websites like Yelp and Angie’s List to see what patients are saying about their dental practice.

Yelp is particularly popular in the San Francisco Bay area. (Indeed, the aforementioned dentist filed suit in Silicon Valley’s San Mateo.) Angie’s List is a similar such site that is most popular in the Midwest. Though they are the top names, there are other similar websites that have caught on in various areas.

The Scandalous Review

Wondering what all the fuss is about? Though the poster has erased all but the final sentence, we tracked down the text of the original review. Would you, as a dentist, be upset with a review like this? You certainly should be – it’s terrible marketing. But would you sue?

1 star rating! Let me first say I wish there is “0” star in Yelp rating. Avoid her like a disease!

My son went there for two years. She treated two cavities plus the usual cleaning. She was fast, I mean really fast. I won’t necessarily say that is a bad thing, but my son was light headed for several hours after the filling. So we decided to try another dentist after half a year.

I wish I had gone there earlier. First, the new dentist discovered seven cavities. All right all of those appeared during the last half a year. Second, he would never use the laughing gas on kids, which was the cause of my son’s dizziness. To apply laughing gas is the easiest to the dentist. There’s no wailing, no needles. But it is general anesthetic, not local. And general anesthetic harms a kid’s nervous system. Heck, it harms mine too. Third, the filling Yvonne Wong used is metallic sliver color.

The new dentist would only use the newer, white color filling. Why does the color matter? Here is the part that made me really, really angry, The color tells the material being used. The metallic filling, called silver amalgams, have a small trace of mercury in it. The newer composite filling, while costing the dentist more, does not. In addition, it uses a newer technology to embed fluoride to clean the teeth for you, I regret ever going to her office.

P.S. Just want to add one more thing. Dr Chui, who shares the same office with Yvonne Wong, is actually decent.

Read the San Francisco Chronicle article or see the actual complaint.

Tell us what you think…

Dentist Review Websites: Get Used to It

Dentist Review Websites: Get Used to ItLast week we told you about the latest controversy on the consumer review website Yelp: a California dentist who’s suing because of a negative review.

It’s easy to see why the dentist was frustrated by an unflattering and inaccurate review. But she’s received lots of bad press from free-speech advocates for her lawsuit.

It doesn’t seem like legal action is necessarily the best way to deal with a bad review.

There’s no turning back the clock. A pre-Internet mentality is no longer relevant. Like it or not, customer review websites do exist, and they’re only getting more popular.

“Litigants have this pre-Internet mentality where they think they can control messages about themselves in public,” Matt Zimmerman, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, recently told the SF Weekly. “But the online community will see this as a slap in the face and retaliate. … It blows up in [the litigant’s] face.”

Managing your reputation online

Even if you’ve never submitted your business information anywhere, chances are excellent that you’re already listed with one or more of these websites. You can find out what patients are saying about you by searching for your name and geographic area on any of these sites.

Most of these sites allow business owners a degree of control over their listings. A good listing should include your name, dental practice name, address, phone number, hours, and treatment specialties. You should correct any inaccurate information.

Uploading photos to your listing is also a great way to give prospective patients more insight into your practice. A photo of the lobby offers a sense of ambiance, while a storefront photo can make it easier for new patients to find your location.

What do you do about a bad review?

Well, you can sue, but that won’t necessarily solve the problem, and you could end up getting a lot of bad press.

Or you can decide not to worry about it. This is certainly the easiest thing to do! Don’t waste too much brainpower on one unhappy customer who wants to complain publicly.

But some business owners just can’t ignore the one-star reviews. either because they’re personally upset or because they feel it will hurt their business.

Reaching out to the owners of the review website will not always be effective. Yelp, for example, will not remove a review unless it violates their terms of service. Moreover, the site does not permit business owners to directly respond to any reviews, comments or allegations.

The most effective strategy for removing a bad review seems to be to convince the reviewer to change their rating. While this is great for unhappy customers, it’s frustrating to business owners.

“The power for [Yelpers] to put a bad remark can crush us,” said a San Francisco florist in an interview with the SF Weekly. “So we have to do 10 steps above everything. We literally overdo customer service.”

Dentist Review Websites You Should Know

We’ve been talking about online reputation management for dentists on consumer review websites.

We recommend monitoring what patients are saying about you on the Internet, but not taking it too seriously. Freaking out or filing lawsuits isn’t likely to be in your best interest.

The Players

If you want to find out what people are saying about you, you need to know where to look. Here are the major players in the public dentist review business. To give you a sense of each site’s scope, we’ve seen how many dentists are listed for two sample areas: San Francisco, California, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Note that the numbers may not be directly comparable, since some sites provide results only for a specific city, while others search the entire metropolitan area.)

Though most of these sites are national, each geographic market has its own favorites. Ask around to find out which site is preferred by people in your area.

Yelp (1,660 dentists in San Francisco, 280 in Milwaukee)
Firmly entrenched in the San Francisco area, Yelp serves 24 urban markets in the US. These days, Yelp is generally considered to be the industry leader in the consumer review category. The site covers all sorts of businesses and professionals.

Angie’s List (500 dentists in the San Francisco and San Jose area, 300 in Milwaukee)
This site is different in that there is a small monthly fee in order to view reviews. This site is especially popular in the Midwest.

DR. Oogle (850 family dentists listed for San Francisco, 80 family dentists in Milwaukee)
This website calls itself “The Good Dentist Guide” and specializes in dentist reviews, boasting over 100,000 reviews and more than 5,000 registered dentists. It is based in San Francisco, but serves most major metropolitan areas. Some San Francisco dentists have hundreds of reviews. The site does allow dentists to reply to comments and remove their listings. It may display information on high-ranking dentists on competitor’s listings, but these are not paid advertisements.

RateMDs (70 dentists listed for San Francisco, 7 in Milwaukee)
Founded by the man who created, this site lets users review medical professionals. You can register to respond directly to any comments made about you, but you cannot remove your name from their listings.

Judy’s Book (70 dentists listed for San Francisco, 3 in Milwaukee)
A more minor player in the review game, this site was recently sold and relaunched. In the Health & Medical section, there’s a category for “Coroners”… one can only imagine the situation in which an ordinary person would have cause to rate a coroner… or the situation in which an ordinary person would go shopping online to find the most highly-recommended coroner.

Insider Pages (170 reviewed dentists and 1,800 total dentist listings for San Francisco, 43 reviewed dentists and 900 total listings for Milwaukee)
The site appears to list a massive number of doctors, but most listings do not include customer reviews. Owners can add coupons and messages about their businesses to their listings.

CitySearch (50 reviewed dentists and 273 total dentist listings for San Francisco, 110 reviewed dentists and 1,228 total listings for Milwaukee)
CitySearch recently acquired Insider Pages.

Google (1,140 dentists with consumer ratings in the greater San Francisco area, 560 in the greater Milwaukee area)
Though it’s rarely mentioned as a review site, Google’s local business search allows users to enter in their own ratings and reviews, but most of the reviews are from other sites such as those listed above. This means that a review on one website can find its way to Google. Since many people to go to Google to find local businesses, expect these ratings to carry more weight over time.

Wondering How To Search for Yourself?

Option one is to go to each of the above websites and browse the directory or search the listings for yourself. But it turns out there’s an easier way…

The second option is to let Google do the heavy lifting for you. But to take advantage of this option, you’re going to need to determine your keywords. Then you’ll use Google to search each website, one at a time, for those keywords.

Take a moment to consider which keywords would best identify you. You’ll want to select some combination of the following:

  • Your last name. (If you have a common last name, you might also include your first name.)
  • A geographic identifier: your town, city or state.
  • Your dental practice name, or a keyword in your practice name.
  • Either “Dr.” or “dentist.”

Then go to Google. In the search box, enter the keywords that will identify you. Then you’ll want to specify which site you want Google to search; do this by entering “” or whichever website you’re interested in.

So let’s review: The text you enter in the Google search box should look something like one of these:

  • Boucher Kansas Dentist
  • Dr. Stillman Toronto
  • “Gentle Dental” Boston

You’ll then see a complete listing of everywhere on that site where your keywords appear.

Once you find your profile, it’s a good idea to bookmark it. You might get in the habit of checking your reviews about once a month.

One More Time – Which Sites Should I Check?

We recommend taking a look at all of the sites listed above. Once again, here they are:

  • [NOTE: Angie’s List requires a paid subscription to see full reviews.]
  • [NOTE: Go to Google Maps and search for your keywords there to find your listing.]

You might be surprised to find out what people are saying about you… Because, like it or not, the Yelp Revolution has happened, and you don’t get to control all information about your dental practice anymore.

Dentists: Can Copyright Law Protect You from Negative Online Reviews?

dentists and copyright lawOnline dental reviews can be a problem for dentists when negative reviews appear, especially when they feel the review is possibly retaliatory or bogus.

A few thousand doctors have taken matters into their own hands by working with a company called Medical Justice, that created a way to use copyright law to go after negative online reviews.

For about $100.00 a month, Medical Justice protects its doctors by going to online review sites and demanding any bad reviews be removed due to “a breach of copyright.” The company instructs doctors to have their patients sign contracts that assign away the copyright in any future review the patient might be compelled to write online.

Techland Times reports that Medical Justice claims what they’re doing is not only protecting the doctors from unfair bad press, but also from bogus reviews. “Some sites say, we don’t know if you’re telling truth, and we don’t know if they’re telling the truth — it’s the Internet, so deal with it,” contends Shane Stadler of Medical Justice.

Moco News writes that by having patients assign copyright in any reviews to their doctor, Medical Justice is hoping to help doctors get around Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (an “arcane nuance of cyberlaw,” according to Medical Justice’s website), the law that protects web services from getting sued over content posted by their users.

It is being reported that Yelp has refused to honor a doctor’s take-down notice based on copyright infringement, and another online review website called RateMDs created a “Wall of Shame” to identify doctors who are using the copyright contracts.

Sound unreasonable? Do you think it’s irrational to demand dental patients sign a copyright assignment form when they visit a dentist office?

For more on this story see Doctors Now Using Breach of Copyright to Quash Bad Online Reviews and Can Doctors Use Copyright Law To Get Rid Of Negative Reviews?


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