COURT DISMISSES LAWSUIT FILED BY DENTIST AFTER UNFAVORABLE GOOGLE REVIEW
New Yorkers post hundreds of Google reviews every day. A downstate couple who posted an unfavorable review of an orthodontist after the dentist treated the couple’s child were sued by the orthodontist for defamation. A claim for defamation requires proof that the defendant made a false statement; and a defamation claim can be defeated by showing the statement was an opinion and/or criticism (which are generally protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution). In this lawsuit (DeRicco v. Maidman), filed in New York Supreme Court, Bronx County, the Google review was initially posted anonymously. A motion to dismiss the case, filed by the attorney for the parents, was denied by the trial judge but on appeal, the Appellate Division, First Department (on Oct. 20, 2022), found the Google review, although unfavorable to the orthodontist, was “not actionable”, and ordered dismissal of the lawsuit. The Court believed that Google readers would understand the review of the dentist was “pure opinion”, and wrote that “readers give less credence to allegedly defamatory remarks published on the Internet than to similar remarks made in other contexts”.