Plastic Surgeon Sues Clients Over Negative Reviews on Yelp, Citysearch


Marinello said the case against Bender, which was filed in June 2009, is currently in discovery, the other two cases were just filed in August.

Negative Comments Remain on Websites

Yelp and Citysearch both currently host comments posted by users named "elaina b." and "Elaina Joy B" criticizing Pensler.

"I do not recommend Dr. Pensler," says one review by elaina b. on Yelp. "I had surgery done by him and my breasts are ugly and uneven. I will need additional surgery to fix them. When I expressed concern to Dr. Pensler, he was nothing less than rude and arrogant. ...After my surgery, whenever I look in the mirror, I am horrified and I have cried several times over the way they look."

In another Yelp review, "melissa h." says "MY BREASTS LOOK LIKE SOMETHING OUT OF FREDDY CRUGER'S MOVIE!!!!!!!."

"S.W." from Chicago says her surgery left her with "Frankenstein breasts."

It is unknown if any of the three plaintiffs are behind those comments.

In a comment on Citysearch (which is still there), "Elaina Joy B" also says that Pensler has been sued multiple times, including for medical malpractice.

Marinello acknowledged that Lisa Cuevas, one of the women listed in Pensler's suits, has filed a malpractice suit, but he said that any claims of multiple suits are false.

"To the best of my knowledge, Dr. Pensler has had no other medical malpractice case filed against him in the past five years," Marinello said. "Dr. Pensler has never had a judgment entered against him for medical malpractice nor has he ever paid anything to settle a medical malpractice case."

Legal Expert: Anonymous Commenters Can Be Unmasked, Sued for Defamation

Danielle Citron, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law, said that intermediary sites like Yelp and Citysearch are under no legal obligation to remove potentially defamatory or harmful comments.

Still, she added, they have Terms of Service that they tend to take seriously. Yelp, for example, tells users that they may not impersonate others and that the website reserves the right to remove posts that violate its Content Guidelines.

But while intermediaries can't be sued for defamation, anonymous posters can be unmasked and taken to task for spreading negative, false information on the Internet, she said.

Courts have upheld that "liar" can be considered defamatory, she said. And while it's disputed that calling someone is "dangerous" is fact or opinion, it could be argued that "dangerous" is also defamatory, Citron said.

"Potentially, the people writing are trying to protect other women but, at the same time, there are huge stakes for folks whose professions are about trust and professionalism and expertise," she said.

Given the nature of the Internet, if falsehoods are spread online, Citron said, "Reputation and lives are ruined and it's searchable and persistent on the Web."

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