Aug. 4, 2005
Florida Dentists Drop Efforts to Shut Down Web Site Critical of Their Work
North Palm Beach Internet Critic of Florida Dentists and State Health Department Has Right to Post Complaints Online, Public Citizen Tells Court
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two Florida dentists who filed a motion for a temporary injunction to shut down a Web site critical of them and the Florida Department of Health’s review of their patient’s complaints have dropped their lawsuit.
West Palm Beach dentist Richard Kaplan and Lantana dentist Leonard Tolley filed suit in November 2004 in hopes of suppressing an Internet site created by former patient Elaine Prentice, a North Palm Beach resident. Prentice had used the site to warn the public about the treatment she received from the dentists and about the manner in which the Florida Department of Health and its hired expert handled her complaint about the dentists. Prentice was dissatisfied with the extensive dental work performed by Kaplan and Tolley and other dentists and with the way she felt she had been induced to undergo the procedures in question. She complained to the Department of Health and was told by an investigator to “get some mental counseling … and get on with [her] life.”
In a brief filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, Public Citizen attorney Paul Levy, who is representing Prentice, argued that Florida law does not forbid citizens from complaining publicly about either their dentists or a state agency’s failures and that Prentice had a First Amendment right to create the Web site (www.dentalfraudinflorida.com) to describe her travails.
“Their case was utterly frivolous and they knew it,” Levy said. “We had a hearing on our motion for judgment on the pleadings scheduled for Friday and they didn’t want to have the judge rule against them.”
Public Citizen, which has been a strong defender of First Amendment rights on the Internet, urged the court in a written memorandum to deny a temporary injunction in the case. James Green, a West Palm Beach lawyer who is a cooperating attorney with the West Palm Beach Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, was co-counsel on the case.