Chiropractor Sues Patient Over Negative Yelp Review

Chris Norberg left a negative review on Yelp after he got into a billing dispute with chiropractor Steven Biegel. Instead of quietly fuming like most people who get bad reviews on Yelp do, Biegel sued Norberg for defamation. Can you really sue someone for a negative online review?

Well, you can file a lawsuit for anything. The question is whether you will win. Norberg has set up a site, standforspeech.com, about his issue and made available the documents related to his case. Read ‘em and see who you think is right.

Remember folks, the best defense against libel and slander is the truth. As long as he’s telling it, he should be ok, right?

Below, what exactly Norberg said about Biegel that sparked the lawsuit in the first place…

The following statements are false as they apply to the plaintiff:
a) “A friend told me to stop going, cause Dr. Biegel billed his insurance company funny awhile before”
b) “So, I saw the guy for 2 visits, expected a bill for about 125 bucks… So ends up, Biegel billed me for over $500. I called to pay, and he couldn’t give me a straight answer as to why the jump in price, we got into an argument…”
c) “He called me back to cover his ass, and had reasons as to why he could bill for the extra amount, then tells me he would still write it off because he wanted to keep his word from the previous conversation. One reason he gave me, was that he runs a business and would stick it to insurance companies (even though that drives my premiums up, and makes me wonder who else he sticks it to.)”
d) The next day I received a voicemail from the receptionist, she told me that she talked to my insurance company and found out that my case settled, and even though it was for an amount less than expected, they felt I owed them $125.
e) [I was a bit put off by the fact that] “he wasn’t keeping his word anymore…”
f) [I don't think good business means charging people whatever you feel like hoping they'll pay without a fuss.]“Especially considering that I found a much better, honest chiropractor.”

9. Each statement described in paragraph 7, above, is libelous on its face. It clearly exposes plaintiff to hatred, contempt, ridicule, and obloquy because
a) the statement in 7 a) above,”billed his insurance company funny” suggests plaintiff is dishonest.
b) the statement in 7 b) above,”…he couldn’t give me a straight answer” suggests plaintiff was billing in a fraudulent and dishonest manner.
c) the statement in 7 c) above”He called me back to cover his ass, and had reasons as to why he could bill for the extra amount” suggest that plaintiff dishonestly made up false reasons which excused his billing practices. “One reason he gave me, was that he…would stick it to insurance companies,” suggests that plaintiff dishonestly [illegible] “even though that drives my premiums up, and makes me wonder who else he sticks it to)” suggests plaintiff dishonestly and fraudulently bills his other patients, and other business entities he deals with in his business.

10. These statements contained in defendant’s review posted online on yelp.com were seen and read by thousands, if not tens of thousands of consumers and prospective patients of plaintiff, as well as professional colleagues, who reside in and around the San Francisco Bay area, and were no doubt seen and read by many persons outside of the Bay Area.

11. As a proximate result of the above-described publication, plaintiff has suffered loss of his reputation, shame, mortification and hurt feelings all to his general damage.

12. As a further proximate result of the above-described publication, plaintiff has suffered the following special damages: injury to his business and profession, all to his injury….

You can read the rest in the online filing [PDF]. Rest of the documents are here.

(Photo: dougalug)

Comments

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  1. MissPeacock says:

    “These statements contained in defendant’s review posted online on yelp.com were seen and read by thousands, if not tens of thousands of consumers and prospective patients of plaintiff, as well as professional colleagues, who reside in and around the San Francisco Bay area, and were no doubt seen and read by many persons outside of the Bay Area.”

    Yeahhhhh….probably not true until you filed this lawsuit, Mr. Biegel.

    • SkokieGuy says:

      @MissPeacock: You so totally stole my thoughts! That and your fabulous screen name – damn you!

      How is it possible to claim damages when the Chiropracter’s own actions are responsible for generating far more damage (more YELP page views of his negative review) than the actions of the plaintiff?

      • lincolnparadox says:

        @MissPeacock: Not a bad piece of evidence to present. Prior to the press release, ot could easily be determined how many possible patients in the SF area read the statement. You could use any number of site trackers to do so.

    • slymaple01 says:

      They can subpoena the recorded hits on this review before and after the case was filed. If the hits on this pages before is just normal, average just like everyone else, then jumped AFTER the suit was filed, then the defendant can claim that no damage was done Until the suit and the subsequent generated publicity of the case was initiated.

    • valarmorghulis says:

      @MissPeacock: It’s known as the Streisand Effect.

    • MooseOfReason says:

      @MissPeacock: Seriously, it’s like a big company filing a “Cease and Desist” letter and drawing more attention to the problem than would have otherwise been there.

  2. Gokuhouse says:

    I’ve posted bad reviews of companies before online, I look forward to seeing how this turns out for my sake! I’m sure nothing will come of it as this would put a damper on free speech in my humble opinion.

  3. JustThatGuy3 says:

    Truth is only a defense to libel when you’re talking about facts (and only in the US – it’s not a defense, or perhaps defence, in the UK).

    A lot of the statements here are opinions/commentary, so the truth defense doesn’t really apply. That doesn’t, of course, necessarily mean they’re libelous.

    • Rhayader says:

      @JustThatGuy3: Yeah, expressing your happiness or dissatisfaction is not a statement of fact, and can’t be proven to be true or false. Libel concerns false statements presented as fact. I don’t believe that applies at all in this case.

    • chrisjames says:

      @JustThatGuy3: Opinions and commentary presented as such do not fall under libel; only statements presented as facts.

    • huadpe says:

      @JustThatGuy3: For a statement to be libelous, it must be a statement of fact. If I state an opinion, I cannot be (successfully) sued. For the lawsuit to work, the plaintiff must show that the defendant presented statements as facts which were a. not true, and b. harmful. If the defendant can prove that the statements are not of fact, or not true, then the plaintiff wins.

      I don’t know UK law, so the above only applies to the US. Also I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

    • snowburnt says:

      @JustThatGuy3: @chrisjames: So the chiropractor’s claims that his statements insinuate dishonesty probably isn’t enough to find him guilty?

      • chrisjames says:

        @snowburnt: A statement of fact is a statement of fact. Insinuation is irrelevant. I could imagine an issue with the line “to cover his ass,” though. Norberg would have to show that he was only inferring Biegel’s behavior, and intended to present it that way: as an inference.

        Regardless, Biegel will be laughed out of court if any of his actions are confirmed. It’s not defamation of character if you have no character to begin with.

    • kc2idf says:

      @JustThatGuy3: Since joining the EU, the lack of limits on libel in the UK have been corrected — truth is now a valid defence. Watch the film McLibel to see for yourself.

  4. Tambar says:

    I’m still laughing at ‘honest chiropractor’.

    • rick_in_texas says:

      @Tambar:

      I know what you mean. Here is the most libelous statement.

      Chiropractor = Witch doctor!!

    • TacoDave says:

      @Tambar: There are many fields of chiropractic. I’ve seen one that was a weirdo, but I’ve also seen some really good ones who kept my back from hurting so bad.

      Don’t dismiss all chiropractors as dishonest. There are a lot of ethical, good chiros out there.

      And contrary to popular belief, they DO go to medical school for four years, and know about as much about the human body as an MD.

      • Anonymous says:

        @TacoDave:

        they acutallly DON’T go to med school for four years. They go to Chiropractic school which has its own licenscing board, etc. The fixes are just that, band-aids; why do you think you have to keep going back for adjustments? You will feel better after a session, but the pain will return. They do not treat the underlying cause but merely the symptoms.

        • TacoDave says:

          @MyraFaloo: Sorry, Myra, but I think I have you beat on my knowledge here. I have family members who are chiropractors and I can tell you for certain that their school is medical school. They must first earn a bachelor’s degree, then they have four years of chiropractic college which includes the normal medical courses like anatomy and physiology.

          The main difference between an MD and a DC is that a DC can’t write a prescription. That’s about it.

          And you’re wrong about the “band aid” thing too. I have scoliosis – my spine is curved. My chiropractor gave me a lift for my shoe and it keeps things lined up. Permanently.

          Not only that, but you move your body all day, every day. It’s impossible to keep things from getting out of whack.

          • Anonymous says:

            @TacoDave:
            “normal medical courses like anatomy and physiology” does not necessarily mean equivalence. It’s like saying a PhD student in anatomy and physiology takes “normal medical courses,” (and they generally spend 5 years doing that). There is a HUGE difference between MD’s and DCs aside from the ability to write a prescription.
            Getting adjusting shoe pads is not the same as spinal subluxations, which will cure the rest of your ailments.

            I’m not saying that it does not work for some people, just that it is anecdotal and is in no way equal to an MD or DO in terms of training and evaluation/treatment of disease (not to say there aren’t bad docs out there).

  5. johnarlington says:

    Since chiropractors aren’t doctors nor do they practice evidence based medicine, I will be happy when every one of them is out of business for pedaling their pseudoscience. They’re mostly in the business of over charging you for unnecessary x-rays, cracking your back, and trying to upsell you on worthless unproven and disproven treatments. Chiropractors do not attend medical school and do not have any real residency requirements.

    [www.chirobase.org]

    • snowburnt says:

      @Eyebrows McGee: Sometimes you need places like that though to let everyone know about how terrible an institution is and there’s no where else to complain.

      I had a vet issue where they overcharged me on a quote to the tale of $600, gave my pets medications without my permission, lost their rabies tags, failed to give us our pet’s medical history, failed to obtain my pet’s medical history (after saying they would). When I tried to calmly discuss the issue with the Vet administrator he became agitated and called me a liar and a thief. I tried going through the BBB, but they were useless. I got all of my friends who went there to go to a different vet (they were much more satisfied after they left). So I went to every site that I could to let the world know how terrible this vet was. I’d like for them to sue me, that would make my year.

    • metateach says:

      @johnarlington: I used to have terrible problems with my lower back that started in high school. About once a year or so I would have some kind of problem that would result in quite a bit of pain lasting a few weeks. I went to a “real” doctor who had been to medical school and residency and all he did was prescribe some useless muscle relaxers. Two years ago I started going to a chiropractor about twice a week for about 4 months. My back is in far better shape now than I ever remember it being. I can actually sit on the floor! I do go back in occasionally for an adjustment, but that is only once every few months. There are some bad chiropractors out there, but many chiropractors are decent, knowledgeable people who do a great deal of good.

      • satoru says:

        @metateach: It sounds more like your chiropractor wasn’t doing chiropractic, but in fact was doing physical therapy on you, which is illegal. If you need physical therapy you should consult a DPT to get physical therapy from a licensed specialist legally.

        Chiropractors basically have a range of practitioners. On the far side of insanity are those that believe that spinal manipulation can actually cure cancer. On the more reasonable side, are those who do a combination of physical therapy and massage therapy, and reject the concept of spinal manipulation being able to heal you. But the thing is, if you’re just doing PT or massage therapy, why do we need the designation of chiropractors? Just be a DPT or a massage therapist. The designation of chiropractor is redundant.

        • banmojo says:

          @satoru: agreed ten fold over; you speak the truth, and it’s verifiable. there’s always someone with a ‘my chiropracter saved my life’ story; problem is, this ISN’T EBM, and EBM has never proven core chiropracti teachings to have any true scientific basis at all. PT DOES work, and has EBM to back it up, which is why all MDs utilize it. And many people with bad backs will get better in time, and it really had nothing to do with their spinal manipulations (which in fact are dangerous and can actually damage one’s back further)

    • ElizabethD says:

      @johnarlington: Watch it there, Johnarlington. Chiropractic has come a long way in recent decades. Our state’s Blue Cross covers chiropractic treatments for a variety of joint and muscle conditions — it’s cheaper for them than covering orthopedic appointments and often has faster and more lasting results. I personally was helped by a chiropractor with chronic back pain that my doctor and orthopedist couldn’t relieve except with groggy-making medications — in two easy sessions.

      Get recommendations, check BBB ratings and ties to teaching hospitals, but don’t rule out chiropractic for many musculoskeletal conditions. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    • Anonymous says:

      @johnarlington: Mencken hilarioiusly debunked chiropractors almost a century ago. (Google “mencken chiropractic”) That said, there is plenty of quackery in allopathic medicine (e.g., “stress ulcers”), and it harms and kills a lot more people. So, no reason to be smug about it.

  6. Saboth says:

    Kind of like music companies assume billions of people downloaded illegal music through file sharing if you made it available, although there is no proof. “Your honor, the defendant had the song available for 2 months in his shared folder…with 1.4 billion people having access to the internet, and the average person downloading “Mmm Bop” on a daily basis, we feel the defendant owes 1.9 trillion dollars (including legal fees).”

  7. Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

    I know a veterinarian something similar happened to (with one very important difference); her husband was politically involved in the community, and one of his political opponents started using Yelp and other Yelp-like services to trash her vet practice — up to and including claiming that she KILLED THEIR CAT. On purpose. Claims ranged from her being “cold and uncaring” to her office being so dirty and failing to follow mandated safety procedures that it needed to be closed by the state. It was insane.

    The very important difference was, THIS WOMAN HAD NEVER, EVER BEEN TO THE VET OFFICE. She had never once done business with the vet; everything she posted was invented wholesale. The vet spent MONTHS arguing with Yelp and the other services (seriously on the verge of tears half the time), and they all took an attitude of, “Hey, someone posted it, we can’t do anything about that.”

    This is why I hate these kinds of services. They protect vindictive assholes behind a veil of anonymity, and they typically do almost nothing to police the sites and remove postings that actually ARE libelous (or even posts that devolve into outright threats). And I don’t know how you strike the balance between letting people speak freely about truly negative experiences, and protecting companies from abuse and falsehood that really CAN, especially in a smaller community, destroy a reputation and a business.

    • Rhayader says:

      @Eyebrows McGee: Well like you said, the case you described was different. False statements were presented as fact, which is a clear case of libel.

      In this case, it seems like the customer was simply expressing his dissatisfaction. It didn’t sound like he was presenting this information as fact, which could be subjected to a “true or false” kind of examination (like with the cat thing you talked about). Instead, he was discussing his opinions and impressions, which cannot be proven true or false and cannot constitute libel.

    • Gopher bond says:

      @Eyebrows McGee: Maybe these services should use some kind of true identity service to remove the veil of anonymity that invites the jerk in most of us to step forward.

    • Git Em SteveDave loves this guy->★ says:

      @Eyebrows McGee: Did this opponent take the Charlie Wilson school of politiking?

    • jamar0303 says:

      @Eyebrows McGee: See, THAT’s when you sue.

    • rbaldwin says:

      People struggle with keeping things objective. I don’t need to hear about how emotional your experience was with a company, just tell me the facts. Today’s readers are intelligent enough to understand the situation. @Eyebrows McGee:

  8. Anonymous says:

    Not to say that this is a good chiropractor, but those who condemn chiropractors have never been to a good one and have hobbled in but walked out…and they do receive post-bac degrees (Doctor of Chiropractics) from accredited schools

  9. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    One reason he gave me, was that he runs a business and would stick it to insurance companies (even though that drives my premiums up, and makes me wonder who else he sticks it to.)”

    I did go to a doctor who actually told me that he was going to send in extra charges to my insurance company. He said this would help eat up my deductible so really it was a favor to me. Right.

    So I’m not surprised his doctor said this but I still can’t get over the fact that they’ll tell patients that they’re defrauding insurance companies.

    • theblackdog says:

      @Rectilinear Propagation: Many insurance companies have a fraud hotline, perhaps a phone call is in order…

    • Petah says:

      @Rectilinear Propagation:
      My doctor does something along the same lines. The average co-pay in my area is 10-15%, so the office ups all their charges by that amount and then does not request a co-pay. Yeah, it’s technically fraudulent and drives up premiums (which get applied to overhead anyway)…

      Universal healthcare/single payer anyone??

      • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

        @Petah: “The average co-pay in my area is 10-15%, so the office ups all their charges by that amount and then does not request a co-pay. Yeah, it’s technically fraudulent and drives up premiums (which get applied to overhead anyway)…”

        Yeah, locally we’re watching a multi-million-dollar lawsuit, complete with RICO charges, from a medical practice that did this. So not only does it drive up premiums, but the resulting lawsuit will drive them up even more.

  10. weakdome says:

    I’ve never even heard of Yelp until I read this article.
    So, the chiro is right… now I would never use him, not that I’m even in the SF area, but thanks for bringing your crappy practice to my attention through filing a frivolous lawsuit!

  11. hindenpeter83 says:

    Dishonest chiropractors like this fool give the honest ones a bad name.

    Seriously if you feel a chiropractor is ripping you off, go see someone else. Where I live Chiro’s are a dime a dozen (lots of rich idiots live in Toronto: Manhattan’s retarded cousin), so if one gets sketchy you could just walk down a block and find another one, or two, or four… I know this option isn’t for everyone, but if your spine is that mangled, it might be worth the drive to the next town.

  12. shufflemoomin says:

    How can they state what people who read this review would think? How can they prove he lost any prospective clients through this or that his reputation was damaged? Isn’t it all heresay and not provable in anyway? The guys is entitled to his opinion and they can’t prove what that did or didn’t make other unknown people think or feel. Waste of money and time.

    • chrisjames says:

      @shufflemoomin: They don’t necessarily have to prove harm was done, only that there was intention to harm (among other things). If he could prove harm was done, then he could sue for those damages too, but libel suits provide for a maximum judgement aside from actual damages.

  13. Euvy says:

    Can you be sued for a review? Sure. Can the plaintiff win? Most probably not.

    But come on, it’s a chiropractor. You can’t expect more.

  14. Hodo says:

    I have no idea of who is “in the right” (legally or ethically — don’t confuse yourself by approximating that what is legal has anything to do with what is “right”) or who screwed who or . . . well, you get the point. But it has struck me as odd, for quite some time, the way that people and businesses alike tend to turn a blind eye and/or a deaf ear to things “said” (written) on the internet. People tend to forget that “free speech” does NOT mean that you can say whatever you want to say (look no further than “hate language”) in person, in writing or in the virtual world.

    I would love to see how this turns out . . .seems that it would establish some interesting precedent.

    • SkokieGuy says:

      @Hodo: Well actually you CAN use hate language.

      If you haven’t noticed, the KKK is not illegal.

      Neither is Fred Phelps the scum that pickets military funerals with signs saying god hates fags.

      Using the “N” “F” word may be politically incorrect, depending on what group the offender belongs to – but it is not illegal.

      • Hodo says:

        @SkokieGuy: Here in the good ole US of A, yes, it would appear that you’re correct (at least at this point in time). But there are nations where hate speech is not legal ([en.wikipedia.org]) Given the international, boundary-less nature of the web, it would appear that hate speech might be prosecute-able depending upon who wrote it, about whom, where they reside etc. No, not relevant to the case at hand, but worth noting, IMHO. The point I was trying to make (and apparently used a poor example) is there are limitations on free speech.

        • penuspenuspenus says:

          @Hodo: @Hodo: Given the international, boundary-less nature of the web, many of those countries without freedom of expression acts choose to voice their opinions/blogs/etc anonymously on sites based here in the good ole US of A. :)

          You’d be hard pressed to get many of the hosts who boast FOE as a selling point to give up any such information on their customers. On top of that, we in the US have the right to anonymous posting of opinions if we’d like, no matter who feels it is hateful which most “hate speech” is posted under (anonymously that is).

          Also, if a site is hosted in the US, it is under US jurisdiction, despite where the originator is located. There are exceptions, such as if the blogger is making money, collecting donations, hosting ads for profit, etc. Then it turns into a whole new ballgame.

          So ya, unless you get fingered, you’d have a hard time getting the information needed to prosecute overseas. Yes, I spent the summer going over modern media law in Malaysia of all places haha.

  15. tedyc03 says:

    Case won’t get far.

    It was his friend’s word that he was repeating. Not his own. If his friend testifies that he said that, charge 1 gone.

    b) and c) are matters of “my word against yours” and unless someone has a tape, those charges are useless. d) is the same thing.

    e) and f) are matters of opinion on the part of the defendant, so I doubt they’ll get far.

    I didn’t take the time to read the rest of the case; I have more important things to do. IANAL but to me it looks like this case is frivolous on its face. Not to mention, he was commenting on a semi-public figure, which makes the charge of libel much harder to prove (unlike if he was slandering his neighbor for being a pedophile).

    I think this case will fail.

  16. private1111 says:

    This chiro sounds like a dickhead anyways. I wouldn’t go see him EVER based on him suing this patient of his for such a stupid reason. Not because of what the patient said about him. Im glad he lost business because of the guys’ post. Sticks and stones may break my bones…….LOL! Some people have way too much time on thier hands.

  17. Jackasimov says:

    I recently wrote a review on Yelp that explained my dissatisfaction with a local business. I later went in to check my review so I wouldn’t have to rewrite it in another review on Angie’s List and found that it wasn’t listed on the site but was still under my profile.

    I contacted Yelp about it mostly because I thought there was a bug or that maybe I’d not submitted it correctly. I received the following response: “Yelp has a system which automatically determines which reviews show for a given business. Just as your Yahoo or Gmail email account doesn’t deliver every email (spam, etc.), we don’t show every review. This protects both business owners (by suppressing reviews that may have been written by a malicious competitor, for example) and consumers (by suppressing reviews that may have a definitive bias, having been written by owners or their friends).”

    No other explanation or suggestion that my review would be “reviewed” by staff or anything. I thought that was a bit of a strange practice since it could end up with a business ending up with a better rating than they deserved. My point is what is the real value of these type of sites? I use Angie’s List and it’s fairly obvious when someone is just making up facts to slam a competitor as well as when they’re just ranting assholes. If the remainder of the reviews are relatively unbiased or positive, one negative review shouldn’t really have any effect. Still, the guy is making suggestions of impropriety and isn’t stating anything as an opinion.

    Next thing you know companies will be suing people who review products on Amazon. Or you for commenting on Consumerist.

    • Anonymous says:

      @Jackasimov:
      You wrote:
      “I later went in to check my review so I wouldn’t have to rewrite it in another review on Angie’s List and found that it wasn’t listed on the site but was still under my profile.”

      I have also noticed that some of my negative reviews have recently been removed from the restaurant list of reviews, but was still under my profile. I also emailed Yelp because I thought it was a bug and they sent me the same canned response.

      Yelp is gaming the system, probably for restaurants that pay them. This sucks. I have used yelp for 2 years now, but now I don’t feel like wasting my time anymore. I think negative reviews are far more important than positive ones.

      (Consumerist, your website comments don’t work properly with Firefox)

  18. oneliketadow says:

    Can you now post a review on Yelp saying “this chiropractor has sued a patient previously for leaving a negative review” or will that get me recursively sued?

  19. oneliketadow says:

    That PDF link takes me to a women’s clothing catalog, WTF?

  20. Anonymous says:

    Freedom of speech does not mean that you are free from the consequences which arise from what you say.

    The lawsuit seems based on proving that the accusations are FALSE, not that they were mean or hurt him. If they can be proved false (which might be hard), then he’s got the client under libel.

    But if he’s a self-righteous greedy b@$&%^$, and gets called on it… he should wake up and realize that it’s the 21st century. He’s in a service industry and customer satisfaction is something which can make or break you.

    – Simon

  21. Scoobatz says:

    Did I just read in statement 11 the chiropractor is partially suing for hurt feelings? Exactly how much can you get for that? I may have just found a supplemental source of income.

  22. emilymarion333 says:

    I use yelp all the time and I do say some negative things at times..I wonder if i’ll ever get sued?

  23. Anonymous says:

    Someone up there is cranky about chiro’s. My medical insurance covers chiropractors, acunpunture and other non-MD medicines for preventative procedures and as someone who has had back issues from the age of 14 because a orthopedist told me to go to a chiropractor regularly as an alternative to highly invasive surgery on my spine, well I’ll go with the doctor.

    There are plenty of honest and helpful chiros out there.

  24. juri squared says:

    Way to Streisand yourself, dude. I probably would have avoided him based on the Yelp review, but the lawsuit is the thing that really sealed the deal.

  25. juri squared says:

    Also? Isn’t the burden of proof on the chiropractor here? I’d love to see his proof in this case.

  26. Quake 'n' Shake says:

    Isn’t he, by definition, a fraud anyway by virtue of being a chiropractor?

  27. SavitriPleiades says:

    Interesting that the chiropractor has a Bachelor’s degree from a university that doesn’t exist.

    [www.drbiegel.com]
    [en.wikipedia.org]

    • Rhayader says:

      @SavitriPleiades: My guess is that he’s referring to SUNY, which does in fact exist.

      Of course, depending on which SUNY school he attended, it may not be all that better than a non-existent school anyway.

      • SavitriPleiades says:

        @Rhayader: As someone who attended SUNY Schools for both Bachelor’s and doctoral degrees, it’s pretty hard to confuse a specific SUNY school with USNY. If any medical professional claims they went to the University of the State of New York on their own webpage, I’m inclined to suspect the ambiguity is intentional rather than accidental.

        • selianth says:

          @SavitriPleiades: Well, from the Wikipedia page that you linked to above, it says that “As explained in the text, USNY is not a “bricks and mortar” school, but an accrediting and chartering body. However, from 1971 through 1998, USNY did directly confer degrees via its Regents external degree program.” He got his degree in 1997. So it’s likely he’s telling the truth there.

    • calchip says:

      @SavitriPleiades: University of the State of New York is the former name of what is now Excelsior College. (It was also called Regents College for a couple of years.) USNY/Excelsior is a legitimate, accredited school that specializes in degree completion and assessment of non-traditional learning. A lot of students at Excelsior (or USNY) are former military people, as Excelsior has a lot of programs in place to grant college credit for military training and experience.

      My guess is that he’s not intentionally misrepresenting, just using the name that’s on his university diploma, rather than the current name of the school.

  28. tylerk4 says:

    That’s one of the more poorly drafted complaints I’ve seen lately.

  29. fermentsindarkness says:

    The yelp review basically accuses the chiropractor fraud. First billing fraud to the patient and then insurance fraud. If anyone accused me of a crime in the conduction of my business I would answer it post haste. No one can afford to have his or her reputation trashed.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Did you check your Home Owners policy to see if you are covered. If you have an umbrella you are, without question covered.
    No way will you get this done for 10K. More like 100K. The doctors hs to prove damages and that is hard and will run the bill up if it ever gets to court. Best thing to ask for is all his records and call every one of his patients. You can get these in a court case. Good luck. Just my own 2 cents. This is not legal advise!

  31. Anonymous says:

    Plaintiff has to prove more than that the statements were untrue, but has to prove what the motive was behind posting them – and it all hinges on whether or not plaintiff counts as a “public figure”.

  32. Erikakali says:

    After going and checking out his Yelp page, I noticed that almost all of his collective 25 reviews are all very positive, in fact, most are rated 5 stars. I can’t understand why he would sue the one person who gave him a bad review when clearly the majority of the Yelpers who reviewed him have had stellar experiences with him.

    You can’t please everyone all of the time; deal with it and stop being a baby about it.

  33. hills says:

    Who really knows – there are a lot of nutty customers out there.

    The best thing for the chiropractor would be if he had numerous other positive reviews – When I read reviews I take it all with a grain of salt. 1 poor review out of 50 good ones doesn’t get much weight from me… So how many positive reviews does this guy have?

    • SkokieGuy says:

      @hillsrovey: I have friends who’s business are reviewed on YELP. Newest reviews post first, so when they get a bad one, they ask all their friends to log in and post good reviews to ‘push down’ the bad review off the first page of listings.

      If this Chiropracter monitors his reviews that closely, it would not be suprising if many of the positive reviews are bogus.

    • Anonymous says:

      Keeping in mind the guy sued the person who put a negative review of him on Yelp AFTER having the negative review removed from the site…it shouldn’t be shocking that all the reviews you find on there for him will be 5 star. All the negative comments have gone bye bye. And now he looks like the best chiro in the business. Amazing how that works…
      @Scoobatz: @Scoobatz: @hillsrovey:

  34. Triterion says:

    HAHA I just posted a review on Yelp linking to this article, I wonder if i’ll get sued to! hahaha me thinks not.

    • Triterion says:

      @Triterion: Well, only hours later I didn’t get sued, but someone from that Chiropractor business contacted Yelp and had my bad review removed. Hmm, this is getting interesting… I’m thinking I should change my real first name and delete my profile picture on there… getting kinda scary.

  35. bsalamon says:

    sounds like a poorly written complaint. Their is no explanation in the complaint that what was written is false. It just says that the guy was wrong.

  36. bdgbill says:

    I’m sure there are some honest non-sleazy chiropracters out there. Just as there must be some honest used car salesman and telemarketers offering useful goods and services at fair prices.

    One of the news shows did a piece a while back showing that chiropracters are responsible for something like 80% of all student loan defaults in the medical profession.

    Chiropractic was illegal in Massachusetts until the 70’s.

  37. internetlawattorney says:

    Basically, this guy accused the chiro of fraudulent practices (a crime). i think the chiro has a case. this is a huge problem all over the country – i see it everyday. people tend to let their mouth run wild on internet message boards and review sites, more so when there is anonymity. this problem will not slow down until there is meaningful reform of the communications decency act.

    • daveistrad says:

      @internetlawattorney:

      Accusing someone of fraudulent practices in and of itself is NOT automatically a crime.

    • erratapage says:

      b@internetlawattorney: I have a hard time believing an attorney would opine as to whether this guy has a case or not without citing any legal authority. Certainly, it’s a little hard to tell here, so I wouldn’t be validating the case. Ultimately, isn’t there a fact issue as to whether the chiropractor was defamed or not (at least with respect to the reported conversations between the chiropractor and the customer)?

      Moreover, I don’t see what the CDA has to do here, since the individual was identified and sued. Anonymity isn’t an issue, at least not in this case.

      I too have concerns about these review sites. I, too, might sue a customer who posted something untruthful and negative. More likely, I’d protect myself by doing my best to communicate respectfully and professionally, and follow up my conversations by some form of writing.

  38. daveistrad says:

    He’s not the first guy to bring a case like this, and they’ve all lost before. Someone sued a reviewer on Amazon for the exact same thing. First off, Amazon footed the reviewer’s legal fees, and I hope Yelp does the same here. In the Amazon case, the judge held that online reviews are, almost be definition, statements of opinion, and thus by their very nature nothing you can say in them could rise to the level of libel. For it to be libel, a reasonable person has to beleive the statements are likely true.

    Of course, that opinion isn’t binding here, so it’ll be interesting to see what another judge does.

  39. savdavid says:

    Chiropractors aren’t doctors at all! LOL! They should be complained about. Anyone can call themselves a doctor or issue diplomas to others saying “You are a Doctor”.

    • calchip says:

      @savdavid: Chiropractors are considered primary care physicians in many states, I’m pretty sure that California is one of them. While I’ll agree there’s a lot of shady stuff in the chiropractic field, and that many chiropractors overbill and basically make themselves sound like sideshow hucksters, there are some studies out there that show that chiropractic care does seem to significantly help some patients.

  40. Brothernod says:

    So what I want to know is how much it’s going to cost this guy to defend himself from the vindictive chiropractor?

    Will there be a penalty to the chiropractor for filing a frivolous lawsuit?

  41. mythago says:

    “Can you really sue someone for a negative online review?”

    What a ridiculous question. No, Ben, online review web sites do not create a Greater Circle of Protection Against Defamation. Either the statements or defamatory or not, and the fact that they were posted on Yelp is irrelevant to whether they are.

  42. terrytaillard says:

    Some ratings & reviews websites are social networks where members personal information is highly visible and this can invite businesses that don’t like negative reviews to lash out with petty lawsuits. Social networks like Yelp seem to serve a purpose but there is something about anonymity as well. Other sites preserve their members identity. Reviewers may feel they can be more honest with less fear of retribution when they don’t provide their names.

  43. daveistrad says:

    So I was curious, and actually did a bit of research into the caselaw on libel. Unfortunately, it looks like posting false statements online definitely can be actionable. It all comes down to, in most cases, to whether it’s presented as the reviewer’s opinion, or as actual facts. For instance, if the reviewer here said, “I felt that he called me back just to cover his ass, and his explanation didn’t make sense to me,” then that’s clearly a statement of opinion and not actionable. Unfortunately, the reviewer’s words are kinda in a gray area between fact and opinion. My personal view is that they’re opinion, but the judge may want to actually have both sides go to trial before saying that, as opposed to just dismissing the complaint outright as frivolous.

    Note that according to the docket, the plaintiff’s attorney failed to appear for a court conference and was fined $250 – so draw whatever inferences you want from that…

    • daveistrad says:

      @daveistrad: Oh, I guess I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that I’m certainly not an expert on libel law, and everything in the above comment is just my personal opinion.

  44. gbroiles says:

    This should be a slam-dunk win for the consumer without the necessity of a trial or discovery because California has a strong anti-SLAPP statute. See http://www.casp.net for more. The guy is asking for donations because he says he needs $10K for a trial – he doesn’t need a trial, he needs an attorney who knows how to get this thing clobbered pretrial, with attorneys fees paid as a bonus.

  45. Novaload says:

    I posted a bad experience on the Bad Business site–had to do with an out of state bank and what seemed to be a mortgage scam. The main reason was to alert other people who might google the company.

    Four years later I got a call from an attorney across the country who was representing an elderly woman who had actually been scammed by them. She had already won a judgment against them and now they were going for punitive damages. I was so happy to add my evidence that what happened to her was standard procedure for these jerks.

    So you never know how sharing information in this way might some day help someone.

  46. Anonymous says:

    it’s a shame that chris and dr. biegel couldn’t work this out between themselves before chris posted this review. i went to dr. biegel for months before i ran a marathon and he treated me incredibly well, always billed me honestly, and even came into the office early so i could get to work on time after our appointment. my dear friend also went to dr. biegel. he has little money and dr. biegel treated him pro-bono after his insurance ran out. i also know chris as an acquaintance and i know that he as well is a good man. sad situation here.

  47. Anonymous says:

    I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t want to comment on whether the case has merit. But as a writer, I’ve had to go to more than one libel and slander seminar with actual lawyers. Truth is usually accepted by juries as a valid defense. However, it isn’t 100 percent. First, a plaintiff can try to prove that the published material is an opinion, not a fact. And there is a legal concept known as “Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress,” which is a very hard case to win, but doesn’t allow truth as a defense. Malice is the key there.

  48. Anonymous says:

    Welcome to the Internet medical profession! They are so far behind the curve. They like to think they aren’t a business like every other business. They THINK they should be immune to criticism. Ratings sites and the Internet aren’t going away, the medical community better learn how to use them to their advantage. They are a great tool to PROSPECT and market to potential customers. Those who understand this will succeed.

  49. stands2reason says:

    Now, see if you had been using homeopathy or good ol’ fashioned prayer instead of chiropractic you’d be fine.

    Or you can use that weird evidence based medicine…

  50. Anonymous says:

    Compaining about a “dishonet” chiropractor is like complaining about a “dishonest” psychic. Or a dog that barks. Or a bird that flies. The CBC just did a big expose on chiropractors and their services. It’s remarkable that people fall for it.

  51. z06swimmer says:

    Okay, so I have to say I chuckled to myself reading these per se libel claims.

    The claimant’s chance of winning approach zero. If I were the defendant, I’d counter-sue for court and legal fees.

    Oh Tort I how miss you.