A Chicago television station is facing legal action from a Chicago dentist covered in an investigative report aired by the station about one year ago.
Irfan Atcha, a dentist who has practiced since 1996, is pursuing a defamation lawsuit against Chicago ABC affiliate station WLS-TV, as well as against ABC itself and ABC’s parent company, Disney.
Atcha is a Chicago resident. He operates Dyer Family Dentistry in Dyer, Ind., as well as No Dentures, of Chicago.
Atcha has claimed a report by ABC7's Eyewitness News consumer investigative reporter Jason Knowles falsely accused him of providing substandard dental care and being unqualified to perform dental implants.
According to the lawsuit filed Oct. 30 in Cook County Circuit Court, Atcha developed the “All-on-4” implant technique after years of academic and clinical training. Atcha has asserted the technique was unique to the Chicago area “and few, if any, dentists had the training or experience in the technique (which) effectively involved the implantation of fixed non-removable prosthetic teeth in four implantations.”
Patients undergoing the procedure are given temporary non-removable teeth the day of treatment and told the final implantation required six to nine months, the complaint stated. Conventional implants take two years and eight to 10 treatments, Atcha said. Atcha has prominently advertised this service.
Knowles’ report ran Oct. 31, 2014, and a written version of the story was posted and remains on the station’s website. According to Atcha, although Knowles had been told to contact Atcha’s attorney for comments, the reporter “ambushed (Atcha), in the dark, while trespassing, in order to evoke a response.” He accused Atcha of calling police on his patients, “knowing that only one patient was referred for police action after harassment of (Atcha’s) employees.”
Further, Atcha asserted the report implied Atcha was facing discipline because of “shoddy dental work,” when in reality the only disciplinary action he faced concerned the amount and content of Atcha’s advertising. In that case, on Dec. 31, 2014, Marion County Superior Court found the state violated Atcha’s First Amendment rights by demanding the right to preview his advertising prior to its dissemination.
Knowles attended a Dental Board hearing “and had actual knowledge that the Board … have no actual evidence of any kind that Atcha misled or deceived anyone, much less an actual consumer.”
Although the network knew the reality of his case, Atcha said, it refused to correct, amend or retract the Oct. 31 report, or remove the online version. He cited the ways in which “the defendant (ABC-7) violated numerous tenets of the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics … All of the defendants’ conduct was intentional, willful, malicious and with reckless disregard of the truth.”
Atcha, who said he “has suffered severe emotional distress … and continues to suffer both public and private humiliation and embarrassment,” is seeking at least $50,000 in damages for alleged counts of defamation, false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He also seeks punitive damages and a jury trial.
Atcha’s attorney is Luke A. Casson, of Andreou & Casson, Chicago.