SW Legal studies in Business

False Yellow Page Ad Is Tort by Publisher
Description

Oregon high court held that the publisher of Yellow Pages, who encouraged a doctor to list himself in an area of specialization in which he was not specialized, was liable for injury suffered by a patient who relied on the representation in the Yellow Pages.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Fraud; Intentional Misrepresentation; Qualifications

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Timothy Brown is a licensed medical doctor with certifications in dermatology and clinical pathology. He started a dermatology practice in Oregon in 1985 and had an ad in Dex’s Yellow Pages under the heading “Physicians and Surgeons” and the subheading “Dermatology (skin).” In 1993, Brown began to offer liposuction and noted that fact in his listing in the Yellow Pages. In 1996, he put a second ad in the Yellow Pages, under “Surgery, Plastic and Reconstructive.” The ad noted that he was “Board Certified,” but did not specify the area of certification.  The Dex representative helped construct this ad, noting that stating that Brown did such surgery would generate more clients. Knepper wanted liposuction and responded to the ad. One of Brown’s employees and Brown told Knepper that he was certified in plastic surgery, which was not true. The surgery did not go well; Knepper sued Brown and Dex for medical malpractice, fraud, and intentional misrepresentation. A plastic surgeon testified that Brown caused an “uncorrectable disaster.” The jury awarded $1.58 million, which the court reduced by the amount of Knepper’s settlement with Brown, holding Dex liable for the rest of the verdict. Dex appealed. The appeals court affirmed; Dex appealed again.

Decision

Affirmed. The damages suffered by Knepper as a result of liposuction performed by Brown were a reasonably foreseeable consequence of Dex’s intentional misrepresentation of Brown’s qualifications. The statement that he was board certified, appearing under the plastic surgery heading was designed to make readers think that he was board certified in that area, not dermatology. Readers of the Yellow Pages would reasonably think that the information presented was true and that Brown was board-certified in plastic surgery.

Citation

Knepper v. Brown, 195 P.3d 383 (Sup. Ct., Ore., 2008)

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