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….