Dentist sued over "I own your criticism" agreement vanishes

Dr. Stacy Makhnevich was a NYC dentist (billing herself as the "Classical Singer Dentist of New York") who made use of a bizarre form provided by a company called "Medical Justice." Her patients were expected to sign this form, through which they assigned copyright in all their reviews of the dental practice and the doctor to the doctor herself, enabling her to use copyright notices to censor any criticism of her that appeared online. Robert Lee was an unhappy patient who posted a one-star Yelp review in 2010, and subsequently ended up embroiled in litigation against Makhnevich — a lawsuit that would have likely settled the question of the legality of Medical Justice's adhesion contracts.

But Medical Justice left Makhnevich to fight the claim on her own, and she has subsequently disappeared. It seems she is no longer practicing dentistry, and her lawyers can't locate her and have asked to shut down the case.

"Defendant Makhnevich has closed its business in New York, has closed its offices, and has not made herself available to respond to this matter," wrote Makhnevich's lawyers on June 25. At that time, they hadn't communicated with Makhnevich in three months, and that communication had been through her assistant.

"We brought this lawsuit to make sure she stopped and to point out to other dentists that they couldn't do this," said Levy in an interview with Ars. "We thought Medical Justice would step in to defend her. Instead, they walked away from it and left her holding the bag. And now she's left her lawyers holding the bag."

Levy is seeking to get Lee back the money he was overcharged and to have notice sent to Makhnevich's other patients that the contracts they signed don't prevent them from writing reviews. He's also seeking to get legal fees paid for; it cost $3,000 to serve Makhnevich, he noted.

Dentist who used copyright to silence her patients is on the run [Joe Mullin/Ars Technica]

(Image: Reeve 12265, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from 27337026@N03's photostream)