Unhappy patient or trolling former student?

3 minute read

A surgeon has won a defamation case over a fake Google review.

A little Back Page shoutout today to Melbourne surgeon Dr Korana Musicki AM, who has won a defamation case against a former student posing online as an angry patient.

Congratulations are due, not just for the win, but for taking on the Goliath that is Google rather than wearing the malicious hit to her reputation.

As reported by Nine newspapers today, “Dave Cross” – whose name appears to be exactly half true – posted a review of the vascular and endovascular surgeon’s performance in late 2020 in which he wrote: “terrible experience, was super keen to get me onto the table but then impossible to get a hold of for follow up, vague about incurred expenses, ended up with a massive bill. had no issues with the surgery but overall negative experience and no followup”.

At least he stopped short of alleging she botched the job.

Dr Musicki, who practises at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and The Alfred as well as privately, repeatedly asked Google to take the review down or give her the contact details of the poster. Google refused until she took it to the Federal Court, when the digital giant reportedly “revealed that Dave Cross was a pseudonym” and provided her with an email address.

She recognised the address as that of Erik de Tonnerre, now a doctor at John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle, whom she had supervised at the Royal Melbourne Hospital in 2018, his final year of medicine.

Sounds like the end-of-semester feedback form wasn’t quite enough to get this student’s gripes off his chest.

Dr Musicki wasn’t having it, and sent a concerns notice to Dr de Tonnerre. She commenced court proceedings in August, received no response from him – not so mouthy now that his alias was blown – and sought a default judgment.

In the interim, in April last year, the review was finally taken down, having been on display for a year and a half.

Justice Debra Mortimer found Dr de Tonnerre had sought to dodge the court proceeding. She found Dr Musicki had suffered damage to her reputation and ordered him to pay the surgeon’s court costs. Another hearing will determine damages to be paid.

“It remains to be seen what level of damage the applicant is able to prove from this single post,” the judge reportedly said. “Nevertheless, she is entitled to some level of compensation for the respondent’s defamatory conduct.”

The Back Page isn’t sure whether this is overall a happy story or an unhappy one.

On one hand, add to your list of potential anonymous complainers anyone who bears a grudge about your teaching style. On the other hand, this embittered individual was outed and will have to pay some compensation for it. On the other other hand, that took a lot of persistence and presumably expensive legal action from the practitioner – probably not within the scope of your average GP.

Send story tips to penny@medicalrepublic.com.au to instantly enhance your online reputation.

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