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Dentist Threatens Patient Who Left Yelp Criticism With Criminal Charges

Dr. Coppola has no claim for business disparagement or defamation. Nor,
despite what your artfully crafted language about conversations with the
district attorney begged Jen B to infer, is there any basis to charge her with a
crime. (Indeed, Texas repealed its criminal libel statute 50 years ago. Acts 1973,
63rd Legislature, Chapter 399, Section 3.) But letters from lawyers are scary
things; had she not been able to hire me, Jen B might not have known that she
faces no true consequences from Dr. Coppola’s threat other than a waste of
her time. I trust that after you share this letter with Dr. Coppola, he will
realize that, too.

Through his threat, and any possible follow-up he might pursue, however,
Dr. Coppola has created some problems for himself. First, the lawsuit he
threatens would Violate the Texas Citizens Participation Act, our version of an anti-SLAPP
law. Tex. Civ. Prac. Rem. Code ch. 27. Jen B’s review is a
communication; she made it as part of her exercise of her liberty of free
speech; and it is about a matter of public concern, the dental services that Dr.
Coppola and Northeast Children’s are furnishing in the marketplace. The
theoretical lawsuit would, unquestionably, be based on Jen B’s posting of the
review–her exercise of her freedom to speak. Jen B would get an expedited
hearing and ruling on her request to dismiss Dr. Coppola’s theoretical lawsuit.
And once that theoretical case is dismissed, Jen B would be entitled to recover
her legal fees–which are, I assure you, despite the eye-popping effect they
sometimes generate, reasonable.

Too, Dr. Coppola now knows that there is no legal basis for his threats.
Any lawsuit he files could be only for harassment, to impose costs upon Jen B,
or to punish her for exercising her liberties, all of which are improper bases.
He would, that is, be using the lawsuit as a form of extortion–using it to
achieve an ulterior end that a defamation claim isn’t meant to achieve. The
same would go for any criminal case that Dr. Coppola might connive the
district attorney into bringing. This would make Dr. Coppola liable for
malicious prosecution, the damages for which would be whatever other legal
fees Jen hadn’t recovered in getting Dr. Coppola’s claims dismissed. See
James v. Brown, 637 S.W.2d 914, 918 (Tex. 1982) (elements); Digby v. Texas
Bank, 943 S.W.2d 914, 925-26 (Tex. App. — El Paso 1997, writ denied).

Jen B, however, doesn’t have to wait for Dr. Coppola to do anything. Dr.
Coppola’s threats have brought into question Jen B’s rights and legal relations
between her and Dr. Coppola, and Jen B is entitled to have the question of
those rights and relations settled through a declaratory judgment. Tex. Civ.
Prac. Rem. Code ch. 37. Because she’s entitled to such a declaration, she can
seek it without waiting to see if Dr. Coppola acts on his threat. And because
she’s entitled to that declaration on a claim that would entitle her to fees,
she’ll also be entitled to recover the fees she incurs seeking that declaration.


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Mystic Maggie

All of the Mystic Maggie Posts are RSS Reader Feeds from around the web. All copyright remains with the original publisher. No copyright is claimed or intended. Where supplied, links back to the original article are included.

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