It's a debate about free speech protected by the First Amendment, versus a business owner's right to defend his or her reputation. This case involving an Orlando doctor might cause you to think twice before you post comments online.
Dr. Armando Soto of Orlando tells FOX 35 that he filed a lawsuit to defend his personal reputation and his business. The suit surrounds a patient who posted critical comments about a breast surgery on the site www.RateMDs.com.
Attorney Larry Walters specializes in freedom of speech cases. Walters says you can post opinions about a doctor or business online, but make sure you have your facts right.
Walters says, "You cannot cross the line and make false statement of fact about a person that causes damages to that person."
People regularly go to review sites like AngiesList.com, RateYourDoctor.com and others to share their opinions about services with other consumers.
Walters says the lawsuit Dr. Soto filed is part of a growing trend. "It's a proliferation of lawsuits against individuals, who make statements online that are negative against businesses."
Walters says big businesses are suing critics, forcing them to hire a lawyer and spend thousands to defend their online statements.
He says that creates a chilling effect on others. "Even if they have a valid complaint, even if somebody did them wrong and they can prove it, they don't want to be sued and have to spend ten thousand dollars proving their point."
Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Soto told FOX 35 News he has contacted the patient who was critical of his services. They have been talking over the last few days, trying to make that patient more satisfied. Dr. Soto says the lawsuit against the woman could soon be dropped.