A Greensburg dentistry group claims it has been disparaged on social media by a former patient and wants a Westmoreland County judge to order the posts be removed from the web sites.
Three Rivers Dental Group on Thursday filed a libel lawsuit against Hempfield resident Robert Ottaviani, claiming he made a series of untruthful statements about the business and dental care he received this year.
According the lawsuit, Ottaviani’s initial post on Facebook on May 20 contained inaccurate information that suggested the company was under investigation for unethical and fraudulent acts. Subsequent edits to the original post and additional statements on Facebook and on other online forums continued to contain false and disparaging information, the lawsuit contends.
The alleged libelous posts continued through June 4 on other local media sites and a review on Yelp, according to the lawsuit.
Ottaviani could not be reached for comment.
A post on Yelp attributed to Ottaviani states that his insurance company was looking into claims he made.
The Tribune-Review is not restating the contents of the posts in question.
“(Three Rivers Dental) is suffering untold harm because of this malicious campaign of disparagement in that it is unable to know how many former or potential future patients have decided to go elsewhere for their dental care needs as a result of defendant’s disparaging posts online,” according to the lawsuit.
Pittsburgh attorney Marcus Schneider filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Three Rivers Dental. The lawsuit does not indicate whether complaints were lodged with Facebook or other online entities or if requests to remove the comments were made.
Schneider did not return a call seeking comment.
Saint Vincent College law professor Bruce Antkowiak said online posts and reviews are subject to libel laws but lawsuits about such comments are rare.
“Libel is a difficult and sometimes lengthy thing to prove,” Antkowiak said. “You don’t see many lawsuits because with social media sites, there’s more ability to just take down comments from sites.”
Three Rivers Dentistry is seeking unspecified monetary damages and wants a judge to ordering Ottaviani to remove the offending statements from the online sites and prohibit him from posting additional defamatory statements as the case is litigated.