A woman who posted an internet complaint against a New York gynecologist says she has paid more than $20,000 to defend herself from a defamation lawsuit, the New York Post reported.
Michelle Levine had her annual gynecological checkup in August 2017 during her first and only visit with Dr. Joon Song. She believed the visit was covered by her health insurance, the Post reported.
But a week later the doctor sent the insurance company a $1,304.32 bill for the visit and an ultrasound, and sent Levine another bill for $427 for preventive services she did not need, she told the newspaper.
“The annual was supposed to be free,” she said.
Outraged, she decided to warn future patients and posted comments on Yelp, ZocDoc, Facebook and Health Grades.
She gave the practice a one-star rating — the lowest possible — and wrote that the doctor had a “very poor and crooked business practice.”
Two weeks later, she received an email from the doctor's lawyers notifying her of a $1 million lawsuit that accused her of false postings and online harassment, according to the New York Post article.
She erased her comments from the websites, but the gynecologist continued with his lawsuit. She said she has already spent more than $20,000 to defend herself.
"I gave an honest review of my experience to warn others, and he is trying to silence me. It’s a nightmare," she told the Post.
"I just have this doctor that's been suing me for a Yelp review and he won't go away," Levine told CBS News.
Levine alleged that Song's lawyers also published her medical history on the Internet, including information about her mental health and personal information such as her home address and driver's license number.
Song wouldn't go on camera with CBS News to discuss the suit, but his attorney sent a statement to CBS New York saying 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."
Song's lawyers told ABC News that Levine's reviews were "outright lies" that "can inflict serious damage to a medical practice or small business."
"Just because you are allowed to and are able to doesn't mean that you should do so without reservations about what you say," Areva Martin, one of Song's lawyers, told WABC-TV. "Your First Amendment right doesn't give you the right to defame someone."
Legal experts told CBS News that it's important to choose your words carefully when writing an online review.
"Truth is an absolute defense," attorney Steve Hyman told CBS. "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.'"
Other experts agreed it's important not to make broad generalizations. "If you're going to make a factual assertion, be able to back it up and prove that fact," Evan Mascagni from the Public Participation Project told CBS.
Song's office commented on Levine's Yelp posting, advising clients to verify whether their health insurance policies cover his services and other costs.
The gynecologist has more than 200 reviews on ZocDoc, the majority of them positive. He gets 1 ½ stars on Yelp.