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$25K lawsuit over bad Yelp review dismissed

Yelp generic
Posted at 10:57 AM, Jan 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-16 15:21:55-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A $25,000 lawsuit against a Wilson County woman over a Yelp review she made about a mid-state doctor has been dropped.

The attorney for Dr. Kaveer Nandigam of Nandigam Neurology in Murfreesboro voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit that accused Kelly Beavers of defamation, libel and false light. The plaintiff's decision comes more than two weeks after Beavers' attorney filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Her attorney, Daniel Horwitz, fought similar cases in the past and said the lawsuit had no merit and was nothing more than a scare tactic for leaving a negative review.

"The whole purpose is to stifle legitimate, accurate and truthful criticism of the business," Horwitz told NewsChannel 5. "I'm disappointed that anyone would abuse the legal process this way, but I'm not surprised though because it happens all the time."

In early November, Beavers was only one of two reviewers who left a comment which read, "This 'Dr's' behavior today was totally unprofessional and unethical to put it mildly. I will be reporting him to the State of TN Medical Review Board and be filing a formal complaint. How this guy is in business is beyond me. Since when did they start allowing Doctors, to throw a complete temper tantrum in front of Patients and slam things when they get upset? He does not belong in the medical field at all."

In an interview with NewsChannel 5 months ago, Beavers said Dr. Nandigam threw a temper tantrum after he realized she was recording her father's appointment on her cell phone, which is something she has done with other doctor visits.

Horwitz knew the case against his client would end fairly quickly based on his petition to dismiss the lawsuit under the newly enacted Tennessee Public Participation Act otherwise known as an Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) legislation.

The law can protect people who speak out about a topic of public concern by forcing whoever is suing to come forward with evidence early in the proceeding. It puts a stay or hold on discovery and requires the plaintiff to come up with evidence quickly to make sure that a claim is not totally frivolous.

"They are extremely effective, and they provide deterrent value and cause people to try to get out of cases once they're on the receiving end of an Anti-SLAPP petition. You're looking at substantial attorney fees that you have to pay the other side and it's an instant way of being forced to put up or shut up in a case," Horwitz added.

Horwitz encouraged people not to self-censor because of fear of a lawsuit being filed, and to fight back to discourage frivolous lawsuits.

"Ms. Beavers is proud to have vindicated her First Amendment right—and the First Amendment right of others—to post negative reviews about bad businesses. She is thrilled to have prevailed in full against Nandigam Neurology's bogus SLAPP-suit, and she looks forward to collecting her attorney's fees in this sham litigation from the Plaintiff in short order. Any person who is considering filing a similar lawsuit in an effort to baselessly threaten others for expressing truthful criticism about their bad behavior should take heed."

NewsChannel 5 Nashville reached out to Nandigam's attorneys for comment. Attorney Bennett Hirschhorn released a statement that indicated his client will continue to fight back.

"As Yogi Bara said, 'It ain’t over till it’s over.' We believe our client has been improperly defamed, and intend to take appropriate further legal action. The non-suit is just part of our legal strategy."