Yelp lawsuit dentist speaks out

By Laird Harrison, Senior Editor

January 20, 2009 -- A dentist suing an online reviewer said Tuesday that the reviewer may have been angered because he was charged for repeatedly missing appointments.

Yvonne Wong, D.D.S., is suing Tai Jing and Jia Ma of Los Altos, CA, for libel because of Jing's review of Dr. Wong, posted on the Yelp.com online forum.

In an open letter to colleagues, which she shared with DrBicuspid.com, Dr. Wong called the comments in the review "complete fabrications."

Asked for his side of the story, Jing -- the father of Dr. Wong's patient -- said the lawsuit "was very surprising," but declined to comment further, instead referring questions to his attorney, Paul Clifford of the California Anti-SLAPP Project (CASPP), a nonprofit organization that fights "strategic lawsuits against public participation."

Clifford said his organization will try to get the case dismissed based on a California law allowing judges to dismiss lawsuits that are intended to suppress a person's constitutionally protected free speech. If the judge doesn't dismiss the case based on this law, Jing will have to find another attorney.

Clifford declined to comment on the facts in the case.

Here is the text of Dr. Wong's open letter:

To All My Colleagues:

Recently, there was an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about my lawsuit against Yelp.com. I would like to take a few minutes of your time to tell you my side of the story.

Last November, I discovered an untrue and malicious review posted by a parent on Yelp. In this review, he made three accusations which were complete fabrications and damaging to my reputation. He was unhappy with me because we had charged him a fee for a repeated no-show last April. After his wife called and complained, my office manager waived the fee.

I contacted Yelp and requested that the review be removed. Yelp said the review can only be removed by the reviewer or by a court order. Because of the privacy law, I can only refute those charges when a lawsuit is filed. I filed the suit last December and it got picked up by a Chronicle reporter who happened to be doing a piece on Yelp. That is how I got my 15 minutes of unwanted fame.

Everybody is entitled to his/her opinion. However, if an assertion is made in the public forum and is presented as factual, it has to be accurate. To my knowledge, Yelp rarely, if ever, checks the accuracy of the reviews posted on its site. I believe that Yelp, or any other similar website, should make the effort to check the facts, or in the very least, should make it unequivocally clear that what you read is very likely fabrication.

I like to thank you all for your kind words and support. I hope that something positive will come out of this and we will see a fairer, more credible cyberspace in the future.

Sincerely,

Yvonne Wong

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Copyright © 2009 DrBicuspid.com

Last Updated np 1/20/2009 4:14:14 PM

2 comments so far ...
1/21/2009 4:51:20 PM
Richard Geller
I had a client in the past who faced this same problem. And the site that had the reviews was #1 on Google for common searches. It's a tough one. You really have to continually Google your name every month or two and monitor what is being said about you on social media sites and review sites and so forth.

warmly

--Richard Geller
Cases4Dentists

1/21/2009 5:42:33 PM
D. Kellus Pruitt DDS
It's sort of like gossip in a small town, isn't it?