A woman who faces potentially millions of dollars in damages after her former dentist sued her for defamation over online reviews and other alleged statements, has fired back in court, saying the Buffalo Grove dentist’s lawsuit represents an attempt to silence her constitutionally protected speech by imputing malicious intent to her statements.
In August, dentist Robert Goldberg filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court against Mary Katherine Alberti, alleging libel and false light invasion of privacy.
Goldberg demanded as much as $4 million in damages, saying statements Alberti made verbally and online have damaged his reputation and his practice. In the lawsuit, Goldberg said, beginning in April 2019, Alberti posted hundreds of negative online reviews about Goldberg and his practice. He said the reviews and other statements accused Goldberg of a range of wrongs, including allegedly falsely accusing someone to break into her home to obtain information from her computer; allegedly falsely stating he has video cameras throughout his office; allegedly falsely claiming he threatened her; and allegedly falsely accusing him of recommending unnecessary treatments, among other accusations.
In mid-September, Alberti responded by asking the judge presiding over the case to dismiss Goldberg’s lawsuit.
Alberti said Goldberg has offered an interpretation of her statements that don’t hold up under the legal standard for the level of defamation he has asserted. Alberti said Goldberg’s lawsuit “is an attempt to silence a dental patient, in direct violation of her first amendment (sic) rights.”
In her response, Alberti said the statements she made are all capable of “innocent construction” and are constitutionally protected statements of opinion.
She asserted Goldberg “fails to alleged that the defendant (Alberti) used words that fairly impute that he committed: (a) eavesdropping; (b) misappropriation of computer stored information; or (c) burglary.”
For instance, Alberti asserts she said in a review that Goldberg’s “employees say he has cameras all over the place” and this was “scary” and made for a “disappointing consultation” with Goldberg.
Alberti also asserts Goldberg’s accusations concerning “burglary” and “misappropriation of computer stored information” fall short, because she alleges Goldberg does not provide specific enough information concerning who Alberti allegedly verbally told about the alleged break-in attempt, and when and where those statements were allegedly made.
Further, Alberti claims her statements were not strong enough to rise to the level needed to prove she allegedly imputed “lack of professional ability” to Goldberg. According to Alberti, her review also described Goldberg as a “talented endodontist with a seemingly brilliant career.” She claimed her review states it is based solely on “my experience,” and not on any professional expertise or claim to authority.
“(Goldberg’s) Complaint alleges many statements and words that do not exist: ‘physically threatening her,’ ‘recommending unnecessary treatments,’ ‘prescribed an unnecessary treatment,’ ‘refusing to provide her with x-rays and/or medical records,’ ‘engaging in a pattern of scamming patients,’ ‘Dr. Goldberg scams many patients,’ ‘Dr. Goldberg as a Jewish person would be expected [sic] scam patients,’ and ‘cabal’ (of dental professionals),” Alberti wrote in her motion to dismiss.
As with her other allegations, Alberti said they were “capable of the innocent construction of a confused or frustrated patient describing her own subjective ‘experience,’ ‘perceptions,’ and ‘interpretations of information.’”
Goldberg has until Nov. 20 to reply to Alberti’s motion to dismiss, according to the Cook County court docket.
Goldberg is represented in the action by attorney Peter S. Lubin, of the firm of Lubin Austermuehle P.C., of Elmhurst.
Alberti is represented by attorney Stephen A. Glickman, of Chicago.