A New York woman who posted some not so favorable online reviews of a Manhattan gynecologist she visited last year has been forced to spend close to $20,000 to defend herself in a $1 million defamation suit filed by the doctor.
When Michelle Levine decided to share her negative experience regarding an annual checkup performed by Dr. Joon Song of New York Robotic Gynecology & Women’s Health, she never imagine that she would end up spending tens of thousands of dollars defending herself in court. The woman claims that she was just expressing her opinion about the service she received and trying to help others by sharing her negative experience so they wouldn’t go through the same thing. Dr. Song’s lawyers have a different view, though – they consider the reviews defamation, and are seeking $1 million from Levine.
36-year-old Michelle Levine says she found Dr. Joon Song online and scheduled an appointment with him for an annual checkup, in July 2017. A week later, her insurance company was billed for $1,300 for a “new-patient visit and ultrasound”, including $427 that wasn’t covered by her plan. Levine claims that when she called Song’s office to ask why she had been billed for services that she hadn’t asked for, like the ultrasound, staff there were immediately aggressive, saying that she had come in complaining of pelvic pain. She insists that she had just visited the gynecologist for an annual checkup.
I was so disgusted, I wrote a review on several sites, including Yelp, ZocDoc and Health Grades,’ Levine admits.
“Very poor and crooked business practice,” Levine wrote in one review. “I suspect that this doctor gives unnecessary procedure [sic] to a lot of people and then charges the insurance sky high prices and no one knows the difference. Everything about my one and only visit here has caused me emotional distress and panic, and now they want me to cough up an extra $500 for services I didn’t even need?”
The dissatisfied patient posted the review on sites like Yelp, ZocDoc, Healthgrades and Facebook, and didn’t really give her negative experience too much thought after that. However, two weeks later, Levine received an email from the gynecologist’s lawyers, letting her know that she was being sued for $1 million over false postings and online harassment.
“It’s been kind of a nightmare,” the defendant told CBS2. “I just have this doctor that’s been suing me for a Yelp review and he won’t go away.”
“I just wrote a review. We live in a country where someone can sue you for anything and the victim is forced to pay for their defense. There is no way out. I have been Joon Song’s victim for almost one year,” the woman said in an interview with the New York Post.
However, Dr. Joon Song’s lawyers don’t see it that way. They consider Levine’s 1-star reviews to be outright lies that can inflict serious damage to a small medical practice or small business.
“Your First Amendment right doesn’t give you the right to defame someone,” Areva Martin, one of Dr. Song’s lawyers, told ABC7. “Just because you are allowed to and are able to doesn’t mean that you should do so without reservations about what you say.”
Michelle Levine says that Dr. Joon Song does not want to settle, insisting that he is entitled to $1 million plus legal fees for her defamatory reviews. So far, the woman has already spent close to $20,000 on her legal defense, and recently decided to launch a GoFundMe campaign to hopefully secure some more funds for her ongoing battle.
“I want this Go Fund Me to symbolize that people are entitled to their first amendment rights and should not be punished for taking advantage of that right. Exercising your first amendment right should not invalidate a patients right to privacy,” Ms. Levine wrote.
So far, she has only been able to raise $1,000 of her $80,000 goal.