Anti-SLAPP Laws Work: Tennessee Doctor Suing Patient Over Negative Review Drops Lawsuit

from the sucks-when-it's-suddenly-YOUR-money-on-the-line dept

Tennessee is home to an overabundance of BS defamation lawsuits. It must be something in the air area. (See also: Virginia, and Kentucky) Now that the state has a decent anti-SLAPP law, things should start changing. And it may start with Dr. Kaveer Nandigam of Nandigam Neurology in Murfeesboro, Tennessee.

Dr. Nandigam decided to test drive the new law by doing one of those things that always works out well: suing a patient over a negative review. Kelly Beavers was his target. She had visited his office with her father, who was being seen for early signs of dementia. Beavers recorded the appointment on her phone, as she always does, to make sure she had all the information she needed to care for her father.

Nandigam did not like being recorded. He told her to stop recording and demanded she hand over her phone. He also told her to delete the recording, which she did. Beavers -- understandably angered by Nandigam's treatment of her -- complained about his actions on Yelp.

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.

For this, Nandigam sued. Kelly Beavers, who had done nothing more than express her opinion about the doctor, ended up starting a GoFundMe to raise the $25,000 needed to defend against Nandigam's baseless libel accusations. Fortunately for Beavers, attorney Daniel Horwitz stepped up to defend her.

Horwitz has been fighting an uphill battle against baseless libel lawsuits in the libel lawsuit-friendly state. He represented culinary school director Randy Rayburn, who was sued by the person he replaced for things a journalist said in an article about Rayburn's culinary program. Yeah, that's how screwed up things were in Tennessee before its new anti-SLAPP law went into effect.

The new law makes things much more painless for defendants facing bullshit lawsuits. And it makes things easier for Horwitz, who obtained a voluntary dismissal [PDF] from Dr. Nandigam shortly after filing this motion to dismiss [PDF] under the state's anti-SLAPP law.

Vague claims of defamation generally kill lawsuits dead. They also signal the plaintiff is hoping to bludgeon someone into a settlement, rather than actually seeking to have a wrong righted. That's what happened here and that's why Nandigam made the smart move to dismiss the lawsuit, rather than allow the bleeding to continue. With the anti-SLAPP law in place, it's his blood on the line, rather than the defendant's.

[T]he Plaintiff has failed to plead the substance of any of the allegedly defamatory statements at issue or to attach the statements as exhibits to its Complaint. These omissions serve to deprive both the Court and the Defendants themselves—who are being sued for not only their own statements, but also for one another's allegedly defamatory statements—of any opportunity to determine what, specifically, the Plaintiff alleges is defamatory. Given this context, the Plaintiff's failure to plead the substance of its defamation claims as required compels dismissal as a matter of law.

Pounding the point home further, the motion addresses the statements made in Beavers' complaint, much in the way Dr. Nandigam's complaint did not.

[N]one of these statements is capable of a defamatory meaning as a matter of law for several reasons. In particular, these statements: (1) are based on fully disclosed, non-defamatory facts; (2) are statements of subjective opinion; and (3) are incapable of being proven false.

Tennessee's anti-SLAPP law means that Nandigam ability to bully Beavers via lawsuit is limited, and thus he has decided to drop the lawsuit. It's been dismissed without prejudice which means Nandigam could try to refile, but given the lack of actionable allegations in his first complaint, it seems unlikely taking another pass at it later will somehow conjure actual defamation out of thin air. Anti-SLAPP laws protect people from being bullied for their speech. We need more of them.

Filed Under: 1st amendment, anti-slapp, doctors, free speech, kaveer nandigam, kelly beavers, reviews, slapp, tennessee
Companies: nandigam neurology


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2020 @ 10:53am

    I hope she amended her review to state that she was sued by the doctor for the poor review.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 13 Jan 2020 @ 11:29am

    Few things bring me the kind of pleasure I get from hearing about a SLAPP-happy asshole getting slapped back by the legal system.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Norahc (profile), 13 Jan 2020 @ 11:40am

      Re:

      Every Anti-SLAPP law should be named afterr Slappy the Squirrel from Animaniacs. The headlines would write themselves.

      Slappy The Squirrel Law used to slap the SLAPP right out of those who file SLAPP suits.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 13 Jan 2020 @ 12:49pm

    Lets add..

    IF you pay for something, you should have every right to an Opinion about it.
    Iv suggested to many people..
    If something is very important, like a police officer stopping you, your managers Pulling you into a conversation(esp if you are 40+ yo) RECORD IT..
    Many states it Recordings can not be used in Court under certain conditions, but They can be used otherwise.

    the world is getting Stupid, and its (IMO) not meant to be Complicated.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2020 @ 1:01pm

    Unfortunately, the dismissal does not (appear to) automatically award defendent's attorney's fees.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Qwertygiy, 13 Jan 2020 @ 2:10pm

      Perhaps not automatically, but her lawyer seems confident they'll get them:

      "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."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Qwertygiy, 13 Jan 2020 @ 2:41pm

    Perhaps a bit of an off-kilter observation, but it's somewhat disappointing that a lot of successful First Amendment lawyers whose legal stances I agree with, tend to be very... crude in comment sections or Twitter threads.

    TechDirt has the occasional powerfully-worded article, yes, but at least I've rarely, if ever, seen Tim or Masnick participate in the sort of bomb-laden comment warfare I'm seeing in these Twitter threads. (It can't be easy for them to refrain from it, given how many pot-shots get taken at them here.)

    It's not like sending middle fingers to the New York Times for slanted reporting counts in the worst half of things lawyers do on Twitter these days. It just tends to turn any hope for a reasonable debate; for teaching, understanding, and changing the opinions of those they disagree with; into a minefield of emotional responses that only reinforce the disagreement.

    Perhaps I just have unrealistic expectations of comments and tweets in general?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2020 @ 3:31pm

    Every time a SLAPP suit gets dropped. An angel shits on Jhon Smith’s head.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2020 @ 3:37am

    Would YOU trust a relative or a child alone in a room with a doctor so unprofessional that he throws a temper tantrum and slams things on his desk?

    I wouldn't let my DOG be treated by such an obviously mentally unbalanced loser.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 14 Jan 2020 @ 10:49pm

    Well if he wasn't sure she was going to file a complaint with the medical board over the actions... this pretty much cemented that outcome.

    One wonders how many others had bad experiences & didn't write a review for fear of being bankrupted in a bullshit lawsuit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.