Plastic Surgeon Sues Clients Over Negative Reviews on Yelp, Citysearch
Plastic surgeon sues patients for defamation after Yelp, Citysearch comments.
Nov. 29, 2010— -- If you don't like your doctor's handiwork, plenty of websites invite you to share your criticism online. But go too far and you could find yourself hit with a $100,000 lawsuit.
In response, Dr. Jay Pensler, a Chicago-based cosmetic surgeon, is suing each of them for $100,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.
Pensler filed three separate complaints with the Circuit Court of Cook County, Ill., claiming that the three women -- Elaina Bender, Lisa Cuevas, and another woman -- attempted to "ruin the professional reputation of a well respected plastic surgeon, through false and defamatory statements."
In separate comments that have since been removed from the online review sites, the women called Dr. Pensler "dangerous," "ruthless," a "liar" and "horrible," according to Pensler's complaints.
Mitchell Marinello, Pensler's attorney, said they were able to identify the women behind the comments by subpoenaing Yelp and Citysearch to uncover the identifying information.
When reached by ABCNews.com, Cuevas said she posted the comments because "I didn't want to see another human being -- male or female -- go through what I went through. …I meant it innocently."
In the complaint filed against Bender, Pensler includes a screen grab of a comment posted to Yelp in which a reviewer named "john n." says that both his girlfriend and sister went to Dr. Pensler on the same day.
The review says "They both will have to have surgery AGAIN to FIX HIS HORRIBLE, disfiguring work. I feel very bad for both of them, really." Later, the review says that Dr. Pensler is a "rude jack***" and "his wife 'nurse' is a very rude unprofessional b****."
Marinello said that when they tracked down the person behind the "john n." review, they learned that "he" was actually a "she" -- Bender.
In a deposition taken in October, Bender acknowledges that she disguised herself as a man in the review but said, "I was referring to myself and all the other people. So you can spin it that way, but I count, too, as a consumer writing this. I count in this review. "
Carol Oshana, Bender's attorney, said Bender protected her true identity in the review because she was embarrassed, but wanted to warn others about her experience.
"She wanted to just notify the public that, God forbid, they have to go through the same thing that she went through," she said.
Oshana said that Bender's online comments (as well as the comments of the other women) do not constitute defamation, but are valid complaints about Dr. Pensler's practice.
"They have real criticism about his work and they all should be able to express their First Amendment rights," she said.
"She was humiliated by the results of her breasts," she said. "Her breasts are just horrific."