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Thursday
Dec012011

Dentist Threatens to Sue Patient for Negative Review

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Robert Lee went into Dr. Stacy Makhnevich’s New York dentist office for a sore tooth, but the year that followed turned into what one Public Citizen senior lawyer called an “unconscionable practice.”

The controversy began in 2010, when Lee went into Makhnevich’s office for a scheduled dentist’s appointment. Bleary from pain, Lee claimed he was told he had to sign several papers, including a “Mutual Agreement to Maintain Privacy,” before being treated. The form required Lee to agree not to publish any commentary or write anything disparaging about his experience with Makhnevich.

While Lee said he was hesitant to sign such a form, he claimed he was in severe pain and, therefore, gave in to the requirements.

Lee received a bill for $4,766 for the dental work, according to Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization. Lee reportedly asked the dentist to send the necessary paperwork to his insurance company, but she sent it to the wrong company. When he asked for the forms to submit them himself, Makhnevich’s office apparently refused to hand them over and referred him to a third party that required five percent of the total bill for its services.

Fed up, Lee wrote negative reviews about Makhnevich and her practice on Yelp and DoctorBase.

Lee then received a letter from the dentist demanding that he delete the post, warning him that he violated the agreement and threatening to sue for breach of contract. Makhnevich also reached out to both websites, asking for Lee’s comments to be removed, according to Public Citizen.

The sites refused to take down the negative reviews, but Makhneich reportedly claimed that a copyright clause gave her ownership of the harsh words. She then sent Lee an invoice for $100 for each day the criticism remained online.

Makhnevich did not immediately return requests for comment.

“We are now seeking a declaratory judgment from the judge to show that my client was not doing anything wrong,” said Paul Levy, Lee’s lawyer, a senior attorney at Public Citizen. “Doctors and dentists are expected to behave in an ethical manner, and to impose this sort of requirement on people who are having emergencies is unethical.”

The suit argues that the forms that Lee signed should be deemed null and void.

“Facing criticism comes with the turf of these jobs,” Levy said. “If they defame you, then that’s something else. A doctor can sue for that.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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