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Doctor sues patient for $1m over bad online reviews

The patient claims to have gone for a free checkup, and came out with a $427 bill, plus a $1300 bill to her insurance company.

A Manhattan gynecologist is suing a patient for $1m over her one-star online reviews, claiming that she has committed defamation and libel and caused him emotional distress.
On Monday, the New York Post reported that the woman, Michelle Levine, has already spent nearly $20,000 defending herself against a suit filed by the physician, Dr. Joon Song of New York Robotic Gynecology & Women’s Health.
The essence of her reportedly lengthy bad reviews, posted to review sites including Yelp, ZocDoc, Health Grades and Facebook, is that the first time she went for an annual checkup, she was charged for it. She claims it was supposed to be free. Also, Levine claimed that the practice performed unnecessary procedures.

Following notice of the lawsuit, Levine took down the reviews.
She told the NY Post that after she found Dr. Song’s practice online in July 2017, she went in for a checkup. A week later, she got the bill:

He billed my insurance company $1,304.32 for the new-patient visit and ultrasound, and I got a bill for $427 that wasn’t covered.
The annual was supposed to be free!

In court filings viewed by the Post, Levine alleges that Dr. Song didn’t give her a manual pelvic exam, instead simply asked her about menstrual cramps and then performed an ultrasound. She also claims that Dr. Song falsely alleges to have given her pelvic and breast exams, and that the office claimed that the ultrasound was necessary because she’d come in complaining of pelvic pain. Levine denies that she made any such complaint.
After the back and forth with the office, she was “disgusted,” she said:

I wrote a review on several sites, including Yelp, ZocDoc and Health Grades.
And I gave them one star on Facebook, which they also put in their complaint.

The Post quoted from the now-deleted one-star review, in which Levine accused the office of “very poor and crooked business practice” and of performing “unnecessary” procedures so as to charge insurance companies “sky-high prices.”

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?

News of the lawsuit reached her two weeks after she posted the reviews.
The $1m suit accuses Levine of false postings and online harassment.
According to CBS New York, Dr. Song wouldn’t go on camera to discuss the suit. The TV station did receive a statement from his attorney, though, which said 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 told CBS News that if Levine’s review is truthful, she’ll prevail in court. Attorney Steve Hyman:

Truth is an absolute defense. If you do that and don’t make broader conclusions that they’re running a scam factory, you can write a truthful review that ‘I had a bad time with this doctor.’

But she’ll have to prove that she’s telling the truth, said Evan Mascagni from the Public Participation Project:

If you’re going to make a factual assertion, be able to back it up and prove that fact.

Levine isn’t backing down: she told CBS News that she doesn’t regret writing the reviews and is up for fighting the suit until the end.


Unless other patients had the same experience and come forward, it’s going to be tough for her.


I can’t see how it would not be straightforward. She went for an annual, which was free. If the doctor does not doctor the medical records, he did not perform the annual exam. Instead he performed an additional costly procedure.
Her dissatisfaction was obvious and the doctor’s reaction was not to communicate but to sue. This ideally should give her lawyer strong arguments that communication was never the doctor’s…suit.
Unless he was lacking lots of positive reviews, a single negative review is nothing.


Am I missing something? Is this in any way security related?


Well, it relates to the possible consequences of what you say and do on social media, and how thoe consequences might not be what you expect. It also touches on issues such privacy, freedom of speech and a bunch of other things that many of our readers to consider to be aspects of cybersecurity. After all, cybersecurity is unavoidably connected with our digital lifestyles, and this story is about where digital lifestyle intersects with (rather intimate) parts of someone’s physical life.
My own preference in cybersecurity stories is cryptographic stuff, malware analysis, how exploits work, and so on, which is why those are the types of article I usually *write*. But I was perfecly happy to *read* this one, so I’m saying, “Yes, it is in at least some way cybersecurity related.” Even if I’d read it and ended up thinking it wasn’t about cybersecurity at all, I wouldn’t get my nose out of joint about it – it’s interesting enough in its own right.
(And who’ss never thought of jumping online to right perceived wrongs, eh?)


People need to understand consequences of actions. Patients need to behave as professionally as the provider. It is cowardly to throw punches at people when hiding behind the restraints of HIPAA. Well now this person bit off more than they could chew; a little humane restraint goes a long way. Would have been a lot cheaper to just pay the bill; next time perhaps she should rate her insurance company poorly for not paying the bill, nothing is “free” in this world, someone has to pay and the insurance company did not. I hope the physician wins this case and the patient has to pay the amount in full.


As a Practice Administrator for 6 physicians, I completely disagree. A patient should NEVER just pay a bill that they disagree with. She should have contacted the office, filed a formal WRITTEN dispute of the charges and contacted her insurance company with the information. She should have also demanded a full and complete copy of her medical record of that visit, before it could potentially be altered. In the event it is altered after the fact, all electronic medical software has a built in audit and it will be revealed.


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