Lawsuit settled over Yelp posting

January 12, 2009 4:16:00 PM PST
A defamation lawsuit filed by a San Francisco chiropractor against a patient who posted a negative review online has been settled, according to their lawyers.

Erik Nordskog, a lawyer for chiropractor Steven Biegel, said Biegel's San Francisco Superior Court lawsuit against former patient Christopher Norberg was settled Friday during a mediation session conducted by a volunteer attorney.

The only part of the settlement to be made public is a new online posting in which Norberg says there was a misunderstanding between him and Biegel and that he should have been open to discussing Biegel's concerns about the original posting.

The new posting says both Norberg and Biegel "strongly believe in a person's right to express their opinions in a public forum." It states, "We both encourage the Internet community to act responsibly."

The initial comment was posted on Yelp.com, a business review site, in November 2007 and criticized Biegel's billing practices.

The new comment is now posted on both Yelp and on a Web site Norberg created, standforspeech.com, to ask for contributions for his legal defense.

Nordskog and Norberg's lawyer, Michael Blacksburg, said both parties and their lawyers have agreed to not to reveal any other details of the settlement.

The agreement "was satisfactory to all the parties," Nordskog said.

Blacksburg said, "The parties settled the case to their mutual satisfaction."

"I hope this case begins a dialogue about the responsibilities we all have in public communication," he added.

Biegel treated Norberg, 26, a furniture designer, twice for injuries from an automobile accident.

Among other statements, Norberg's 2007 comment on Yelp said Biegel allegedly told Norberg he "would stick it to insurance companies."

The chiropractor's lawsuit, filed in February 2008, claimed the comment defamed him and placed him in a false light by incorrectly portraying him as dishonest.

Norberg's defense was that his comment was protected as free speech because it was an expression of opinion, Blacksburg said.

The full comment posted by Norberg under the settlement reads, "A misunderstanding between both parties led us to act out of hand. I chose to ignore Dr. Biegel's initial request to discuss my posting. In hindsight, I should have remained open to his concerns. Both Dr. Biegel and I strongly believe in a person's right to express their opinions in a public forum.


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