More patients are posting reviews of their doctors online. For Dr. Albert Carlotti, the trend proved disastrous.
He said he went from owning a successful practice with his wife to incurring hundreds of thousands in legal fees, losing most of his patients and seeing his earnings drop tremendously.
Albert and Michelle Carlotti, both maxillofacial surgeons, opened their practice in Arizona in 2002. By 2007, their practice had grown to 13,000 patients.
That year, Albert Carlotti treated a patient who subsequently became dissatisfied. "This patient turned to the Internet and launched websites and countless blogs to attack us," he said. The Carlottis sued the patient for defamation, embarking on a four-year legal battle "to defend ourselves," he said.
Over that period, Carlotti said he amassed over $675,000 in legal fees, maxed out credit and home equity lines, and borrowed money from family and friends. Because of the negative publicity, Carlotti said his patient base shrank by 80%.
"I lost 35 pounds and contemplated suicide as a way out," said Albert Carlotti, adding that his family helped him through.
In 2011, the Carlottis won the lawsuit and were awarded $12 million in damages. "But we are yet to see any of it because the defendant filed for bankruptcy," he said.
The patient, Sherry Petta, said she's appealing the court's decision and hopes to get the award reduced or eliminated. Petta said she's "confident that the decision will be turned around." Petta said she posted her complaints online to make sure Carlotti saw them and to warn others to be careful when selecting a doctor.
As for Carlotti, "after this, I actually felt that medicine is not for me anymore. We had even thought about making a big change in our lives and moving to New Zealand," he said.
Carlotti said he has not quit his practice and still sees patients, but said he's starting a part-time consulting company. He recently launched the website doctorslitigationsupport.com.
"Anyone with a computer and some basic skills can wrongly assassinate a doctor's reputation in minutes," said Carlotti. can't"I feel I can now help others and save them a lot of grief."
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