A New York dentist has fined a customer for posting a negative review online, highlighting the underhanded nature of anti-defamation contracts and how they are being abused to ensure a company's good reputation in spite of poor treatment.
A New York dentist has fined a disgruntled customer for posting a negative review online after it was revealed that he had inadvertantly signed an anti-defamation contract before having a toothache addressed.
The bizarre case began when 42-year-old Robert Lee visited Stacy Makhnevich's dental practice to deal with a bad toothache and tooth infection. Lee claims he was given a contract to sign, the terms of which included an anti-defamation clause, which he said he questioned, but ultimately agreed to in order for Makhnevich to treat his pain.
That would have been all well and good were it not for the fact that the dentist then overcharged him, sent his records to the wrong insurance company, and refused to provide a new copy of those records so he could give them to his actual insurance company.
The incident was so bad for Lee that he decided to post a negative review of Makhnevich's practice on both Yelp and DoctorBase, saying: “Avoid at all cost! Scamming their customers!”
Of course, the anti-defamation agreement meant that he was required to never say a bad word about his dentist, no matter how poorly he had been treated.
Makhnevich then sent Lee a number of $100 fines, alleging he had infringed her copyright. It is not exactly clear why the dentist went with this argument, as the case appears to be one of contract violation rather than copyright infringement.
The case raises significant questions over the rampant use of anti-defamation contracts among certain businesses, which employ underhanded legal wrestling to ensure that their reputation remains intact, regardless of the actual treatment of customers.
Lee filed a lawsuit against Makhnevich, which has resulted in the medical law agency Medical Justice Services, which wrote the contract in question, cancelling it and telling all of its clients to stop using it.
Lee's lawyer, Paul Alan Levy, said: “It is outrageous that a patient would have to sign away his constitutionally protected right to get treatment for a toothache.”