Arbitrators ordered a pharmaceutical company to pay a Florida doctor $1.5 million in a seemingly rock solid mistaken identity defamation case. Why is it noteworthy? The case proves that plaintiffs with similar claims can win — and win big — in the U.S.
Mistaken Identity Defamation Results In $155 Million Award For Doctor
According to reports, OptumRx listed Dr. Lopez as a “sanctioned” doctor — meaning he was a physician with professional demerits. Well, word got out, and his practice plummeted. Even worse, the accusations weren’t accurate. Apparently, OptumRx confused the doctor with another physician!
Dr. Lopez’s attorneys explained the mistaken identity defamation case:
“More strikingly, however, the Panel of Arbitrators determined that OptumRx, Inc.’s wrongful conduct was ‘motivated solely by unreasonable financial gain and the unreasonably dangerous nature of the conduct, together with the high likelihood of injury resulting from the conduct, was actually known by the managing agent, director, officer, or other person responsible for making policy decisions.
“The case arose after OptumRx publicly and repeatedly made false statements about Dr. Lopez, wrongly labeling him as a physician-sanctioned by the Office of Inspector General. In actuality, OptumRx had misidentified Dr. Lopez. The Jose Lopez who was sanctioned by OIG lived in another city in Florida and was not even a physician. The Panel of Arbitrators concluded that OptumRx injured Dr. Lopez’s reputation in the community by falsely advising pharmacies, Dr. Lopez’s patients, and others that Dr. Lopez was a sanctioned provider. OptumRx failed to acknowledge the mistake and continued making the false statements despite repeated attempts by Dr. Lopez to get OptumRx to investigate whether OptumRx had identified another person with a similar name.”
Here’s some straight talk: Slander and libel claims aren’t easy to win in the United States. First Amendment protections — not to mention considerable case law — ensure that free speech triumphs over censorship.
But that doesn’t mean blatant, public lies — about people or companies — to the point of material harm — is acceptable under U.S. law. In this case, OptumRx, in failing to double check its records, significantly damaged a physician’s professional reputation.
Speak With An Attorney About Your Defamation Troubles
Parties that suffer this type of mistaken identity defamation can successfully seek redress, especially if your attacker refuses to make a retraction after being alerted of the mistake.
Click here to learn more about the basics of U.S. business defamation law? Suffering through your mistaken identity defamation storm? Need help? Contact the lawyers at Kelly / Warner.