There have been a number of cases in recent years regarding damages allegedly caused by negative online reviews. A dentist in New York is currently the target of a class action lawsuit regarding efforts to head off such issues. Stacy Makhnevich, DDS, allegedly had patients sign a form prior to treatment that they would not denigrate or disparage her on the Internet and granting her copyright of any such writings. The form was in the form of a mutual non-disclosure agreement and also represented that it protected the patient from certain claimed “loopholes” in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which would allow the use of patient information for marketing purposes. When a patient violated the agreement by posting a negative review, Makhevich allegedly sent letters threatening suit and invoices charging $100 per day for use of her copyrighted material.
The lawsuit claims that the form and practice violates New York law and dental ethics and is a misuse of federal copyright laws. A federal judge recently ruled that the case can continue. Given the widespread use of the forms, which are marketed to thousands of doctors and dentists, other similar lawsuits may follow.