After flaming a local doctor with a negative Google review, the NSW Supreme Court has ordered a Sydney woman to pay that doctor half a million dollars in damages.
We’re living in a time when it’s easy to get caught up in our emotions, and caught up in the moment, to consider ourselves “untouchable” keyboard warriors and let our fingertips do the talking with smart remarks online.
But, if ever there was a good reason to learn to pause, take a breath, and consider very carefully what you’re posting, it’s a recent New South Wales Supreme Court ruling which has ordered a Sydney woman to pay over half a million dollars in damages plus legal costs to a Sydney doctor for whom she left an untrue Google review.
Cynthia Imisides had already received a nose job when well-known plastic surgeon, Kourosh Tavakoli, operated on her nose and cheeks in February 2017. She subsequently failed to attend all but one follow-up appointment before telling her ex-husband she’d been charged for an unperformed cheek reduction. Mr. Imsides then posted an untrue negative 1-star Google review online.
The Supreme Court of New South Wales heard that Dr. Tavakoli, who bills himself as “the household name for elite plastic surgery in Australia,” posts before and after pictures of his “mummy makeovers” to his 156,000 Instagram followers and that his surgery has a 4.8-star rating on Google, over more than 100 reviews.
But in the week after Ms. Imisides’ review went live on Google, traffic to Dr. Tavakoli’s website dropped almost 25%. Her review stated she was “extremely unhappy” with her nose job and alleged the surgeon had no morals.
Ms. Imisides left the review up for three weeks, refused to apologize, and threw out court documents served upon her.
A week before the trial was due to begin in November 2018, she posted a second untrue Google review in contravention of court orders.
When told by Mr. Tavakoli’s lawyers to take the review down, she told them to “piss off” and that “I don’t have any money to give you greedy people.”
On June 24, 2019, Justice Rothman ruled that the allegations made by Ms. Imisides were “plainly untrue,” “extremely serious,” went to the heart of Dr. Tavakoli’s exemplary reputation and caused “more than significant” hurt to his feelings.
But this is not the first time a negative Google review has resulted in a defamation suit, and it’s unlikely to be the last.
With the prevalence of social media in our lives, it’s easy to forget that as much as it can be a great platform for sharing ideas and opinions and connecting with like-minded individuals, making false accusations can lead to civil and even criminal proceedings.