NEW YORK — A Manhattan woman is facing legal troubles after posting a bad review of a local doctor online. Michelle Levine told CBS New York she’s already spent close to $20,000 fighting the million-dollar suit, which accuses her of defamation, libel and causing emotional distress.
The plaintiff is Dr. Joon Song, a gynecologist Levine says she visited once in August for an annual exam.
"After that I just got a bill for an ultrasound and a new patient visit, whatever that means, and it was not billed as an annual, and I wrote a review about it," she said.
She said she complained to the doctor’s office, but nothing happened. The lengthy critical review said, "very poor and crooked business practice," among other things, and was posted on sites like Yelp, Zocdoc and Healthgrades.
"And I gave them one star on Facebook, which they also put in their complaint," Levine said.
Levine said that after getting sued she took down all her reviews, but Dr. Song still wants her to pay around $1 million in damages plus legal fees.
"It’s been kind of a nightmare," the defendant said. "I just have this doctor that’s been suing me for a Yelp review and he won’t go away."
Dr. Song wouldn’t go on camera to discuss the suit, but his attorney sent a statement to CBS New York saying in part: "While everyone is entitled to their opinion, outright lies masquerading as reviews can inflict serious damage to a medical practice or small business."
Legal experts said it’s important to choose your words carefully when writing an online review.
"Truth is an absolute defense," attorney Steve Hyman said. "If you do that and don’t make a broader conclusions that they’re running a scam factory, you can write a truthful review that ‘I had a bad time with this doctor.’"
Other experts agree it’s important not to make broad generalizations.
"If you’re going to make a factual assertion, be able to back it up and prove that fact," Evan Mascagni from the Public Participation Project said.
Levine said that she doesn’t regret writing her review and will continue to fight to the end if she has to.