For decades now, doctors with the letters DDS after their name have been doing a better job not to give us nightmares. Kids get toys when they have a calm appointment, and adults get nitrous oxide gas to help with pain and anxiety, thank goodness. But this story of a copyright infringement lawsuit beginning in a dentist’s office is nothing short of unsettling. And yeah, the photo that accompanies it is going to give us nightmares, too.
No doubt Dr. Stacy Makhnevich thought she was being innovative and cutting edge in her techniques to develop a contract that allowed her to “take ‘ownership’ of her patients’ reviews,” but a court of law isn’t so sure that it’s simply downright illegal. One patient thought so, too, and in 2011 challenged the dentist with a copyright infringement lawsuit, pointing fingers at the creators of the contracts, a company called Medical Justice.
Well, no surprise here, the creators of those contracts backed out in a hurry, with Medical Justice’s official line being that it was “retiring the contract.” Interestingly, Dr. Stacy Makhnevich backed out in a hurry too, when she “literally made a run for it,” and “she’s been nowhere to be found since 2013.” Her flight from the lawsuit is somewhat suspicious, since the judgement entered against were was only a court ordered payment of $4,766. Not an overwhelming amount for a profitable business like dentistry, but the damages for “breach of contract” might not ever be collected at all, given the fact that the dubiously decent doctor has literally disappeared.
The copyright infringement lawsuit was found for Dr. Makhnevich’s contracts to be “illegal under New York law,” where she was practicing, and clearly violate dental ethics. Maybe Makhnevich saw herself opening up a small practice somewhere in the rural northeast, trying to avoid damage to her reputation, but if so, she’s probably sorely mistaken. The lawyer representing the plaintiff in the lawsuit called her actions “cheap maneuvers,” to avoid letting the truth out. And “the price you pay for that is going out of business,” he states.
But why did a disgruntled patient come forward with a copyright infringement lawsuit in the first place? It’s feasible that the dentist might have gotten away with her scheme had the one plaintiff filing suit not have realized he was being scammed. Signing forms without thinking about it, “desperate to get rid of his toothache” is an understandable move for almost any of us. But when Robert Lee figured out that the doc vastly overcharged him, he posted a negative review online.
The negative review got the attention of the doctor’s office, who claimed they owned it and sent requests to Yelp to remove it, as well as invoicing Lee $100 a day for every day the reviews remained online. The Public Citizen law office agreed to represent Lee in court that his online statements were protected as “fair use,” and the court agreed with them. There’s no way Makhnevich is practicing now after all this, unless she scammed the dental licensing boards and assumed a new identity.