It seems like almost everyone has posted a negative review about a business at some point in their lives. If an experience at a store or business did not live up to the expectations of a consumer, the first response is often to go online and share the negative experience with others. While the customer often feels better after sharing their story with the public, the aftermath is not always a positive experience as one woman in British Columbia recently learned.
The Supreme Court of British Columbia has ordered a woman to pay a sum of tens of thousands of dollars after she posted reviews that were found to be defamatory. The reviews were posted after the woman had breast augmentation surgery.
The woman, who identifies herself as a blogger, made plans to enhance the size of her breasts after her daughter was born in 2015. The court made the decision that the women had been performing research on plastic surgeons. The court also made the determination that the surgeon in question (the plaintiff) was picked because the woman would have had the opportunity to undergo a consultation not long after deciding on a doctor to perform the procedure.
During the consultation appointment, the surgeon examined the medical history of the patient and also performed a physical examination of the person. The female patient was also required to view a video that explained the breast augmentation process. The surgeon even took the time to review the different types of breast implants available to the patient as well as the possible risks of having the surgery.
At some point during the consultation process, the surgeon discovered that the patient suffered from Pectus Excavatum which is a chest wall deformity that is also known as a sunken chest. In general, this condition causes the front of the chest to be concave (the breastbone sinks into the chest) instead of convex (the chest juts outward and gives a birdlike appearance or a “pigeon chest”).
The court documents stated the surgeon made the suggestion to use two different breast implant sizes in order to better address the medical condition. However, the patient stressed that she wanted to have breast implants placed that were the same size.
The surgery was performed in 2015 and, in the days after the surgery, the office of the doctor received “numerous calls, text messages, and a breast photograph” from the defendant. It was also stated that the defendant was concerned that the left breast was higher on the body than the right breast and that the lower half of the breast was black and blue which might have been an indication of bleeding.
Due to these concerns being shared by the patient, the surgeon examined her and said he was not “concerned about the outcome” as he felt the implant in the left breast would drop into place as time passed.
A series of complaints and emails followed the determination by the doctor. The patient then decided that she wanted to have a second surgery performed, in 2016, by another doctor (as opposed to a smaller and more minor procedure form the same doctor). The second breast augmentation procedure included a complete replacement process of the first set of breast implants. The patient also said she did not want to pay for the second cosmetic breast surgery due to the fact it was “necessitated by mistakes” she claims were made during the first procedure.
Fast forward to 2018 when the patient posted a negative review on her blog as well as on Google Reviews. In her blog, she described her medical journey as an “anxiety-filled nightmare” and that she feels she left the operating room worse than the start of her journey with the first surgery.
In the review/blog, she started “I knew something wasn’t right immediately from the bottom half of my breast being almost entirely black and blue. He shrugged it off, said it was fine. I took his word for it even though it didn’t feel or look fine.”
The blog continued with the following statement: “It was a lengthy, stressful battle to have a different surgeon correct his mistake without having to pay full price for another breast augmentation. At one point, I wanted the implants completely taken out because I fully regretted the procedure he did on me. It was a hard, frustrating process in negotiating revision surgery and costs.”
She posted a review that was similar in nature on the Google Review page of the surgeon. The review on this page stated the doctor did not make a suggestion to try a different approach to the issue with the pectus deformity. In addition, the patient said the doctor was making a constant attempt to have her review removed and the doctor was trying to “publicly bully” her.
In 2019, the plastic surgeon decided to take legal action by seeking damages for defamation. In return, the blogger filed a counterclaim that said her review was protected by the Protection of Public Participation Act. The court ended up overturning both of these legal actions.
The document filed by the court read, “While Internet postings in the nature of ‘reviews’ of restaurants and services are the norm in today’s world, defamatory comments dressed up as ‘reviews’ that are not factual or do not qualify as fair comments are subject to the laws of defamation. Moreover, the posts contain defamatory statements of fact that cannot be justified.”
Since the blogger was not willing to remove the reviews and based on her conduct since the start of the litigation and her attack on the professional reputation of the doctor, the judge decided the patient needed to pay $30,000 in damages to the surgeon. In addition, she was ordered by the court to remove the reviews and to no longer post the reviews on social media.