The lawsuit filed by a San Francisco chiropractor against a patient who wrote a negative review of him on Yelp was settled on Friday, according to the attorney for the defendant.
"This case was settled with the mutual satisfaction of both parties," said Michael Blacksburg, who represented patient Christopher Norberg. The terms of the settlement agreement are confidential and the March trial date will be canceled, he said.
The case had spurred debate over how to best balance the rights of consumers to express themselves on community forum sites with the rights of businesses to protect their reputation.
Shortly after the court-required mediation hearing was completed Friday afternoon, Norberg replaced an earlier Yelp posting in which he said he had been sued by chiropractor Steven Biegel with a short posting that 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. We both encourage the Internet community to act responsibly."
"I'm really glad for both of them that they can put this dispute behind them," said Blacksburg. "I hope this begins the public conversation on how to communicate using the resources of the Internet."
Biegel sued Norberg for defamation nearly a year ago over a posting in which Norberg had suggested that Biegel's billing practices were dishonest because he had billed Norberg's insurance company an amount that was four times what he had quoted to Norberg for two office visits in 2006, according to court documents. Biegel had allegedly told Norberg that the price differential was due to the additional time and effort his office spends dealing with the insurers.
Biegel's lawyer contended that Norberg's comments on Yelp were statements of fact and thus libelous. Blacksburg maintained that the comments were opinion and therefore were constitutionally protected speech.