Attorneys for a woman sued for libel and slander by a Los Angeles plastic surgery center have filed a motion to dismiss the center’s case.
Wave Plastic Surgery, Inc., sued Korean-American comedian and social media personality Tina Kim in the Los Angeles Superior Court on December 7.
Kim had posted on TikTok a video’d recollection of her walk-in experience with the clinic’s receptionists on November 7.
In the 30-day interim, it had racked up 53,000 views.
In its lawsuit obtained by the Times, Wave’s attorneys argued that aspects of Kim’s review amounted to libel and slander.
Wave argued that false statements in the video were “a substantial factor in” a “sharp decline in new customer sign-ups [at its LA location],” which it said were “directly related to” Kim’s video.
“There is clear and convincing evidence that Defendant KIM knew that the disclosure would create a false impression about Plaintiff WAVE. Defendant KIM knew that she was in the premises for a total of four minutes and not fifteen minutes. Defendant KIM knew that WAVE’s staff promptly greeted her, but she made false statements about the staff on her Video. Defendant KIM knew or should have known or was negligent in determining the truth that WAVE is a money laundering business because she knew that WAVE is [a] plastic surgery business and did not perform a reasonable investigation before making disparaging comments in the comment section of her TikTok Video.” / “Plaintiff sustained harm to its reputation and occupation or business because WAVE’s new customer sign-ups declined at the LA location after the Video was published.”Plaintiff Wave Plastic Surgery, Inc’s Complaint, Filed Dec. 7, 2023 in the Superior Court of Los Angeles
Served the lawsuit at her comedy show in Los Angeles, Tina Kim opted to leave her review online, and start a legal defense fund, to “support freedom of speech, reviews & fight intimidation.”
“Somebody’s gonna get SLAPPed,” she told the Times in December, referencing a class of lawsuits typically filed by rich or powerful public personalities to stifle certain public discourse, motions against which are known as “Anti-SLAPPs.”
“Under the seasoned leadership of Dr. Peter Lee, [Wave] has risen to become one of the largest practices in the U.S.,” an investment and M&A advisory firm release issued on Monday says.
Announcing that the multi-location plastic surgery and laser treatment company has been acquired, it asks readers to “Imagine a world where the cutting edge of aesthetic medicine meets savvy investment strategy.”
Motion to Strike
Kim’s attorneys ask the court to imagine a vastly different world.
“Imagine a world where the late Anthony Bourdain faced a lawsuit for his online criticism and opinion of a cuisine he tried, filed by the owner of the establishment that served the cuisine,” Kim’s lawyers write in an introduction to their anti-SLAPP motion.
“[F]reedom of speech would be stifled, and the free flow of information could be hindered due to the fear of having to spend substantial amounts of money defending against such lawsuits.”
Wave’s lawsuit against Kim presents what it believes amounts to libel, slander, and false light, and requests damages “in an amount not less than $250,000.”
Defendant Kim’s special motion to strike, filed January 9, presents her counterclaims and seeks to dismiss the lawsuit on free speech and other grounds.
A hearing is scheduled for April 16.
Among those counterclaims are data that suggest Wave owner Dr. Peter Lee is a public figure—a stature that demands more stringent criteria for alleged defamation—and that defendant Kim’s review is “truthful” and “nonactionable.”
“Defendant’s TikTok review, is an issue of public concern, comprised of opinion, hyperbole, and substantially true facts, are not actionable as a matter of law. Not only are Plaintiff’s meritless claims completely within the spirit of classic SLAPP suits designed to deter ‘public participation,’ they clearly arise from protected free speech and conduct in furtherance thereof. Plaintiffs’ meritless claims taken as a whole are a textbook example of a ‘strategic lawsuit against public participation’ (‘SLAPP’)—lawsuits typically brought by powerful businesses, such as Plaintiff, in order [to] silence and harass their critics by forcing them to spend money to defend these baseless suits. SLAPP filers, such as Plaintiff, seek to intimidate those who criticize or disagree with them or their activities by draining the target’s financial resources. For that reason, the California legislature has provided defendants such [as] this Defendant with a procedure, the special motion to strike to quickly weed out SLAPP lawsuits before being subjected to costly and time-consuming litigation.”Defendant Tina Kim’s Special Motion to Strike, Filed Jan. 9, 2024 in the Superior Court of Los Angeles
In court filings obtained by the Times, attorneys call plaintiff Wave Plastic Surgery, Inc’s lawsuit a “textbook example” of a SLAPP lawsuit
“Plaintiff’s claims are a classic and unfounded SLAPP, brought by a multi-million-dollar business to harass an individual Defendant and chill conversation designed to promote discussion of an issue of public concern.”
The filings suggest that defendant Tina Kim, through her video, was discussing a matter of widespread public interest, involving a prominent public figure or establishment, and that that discussion took place within a public forum.
Of significance relative to the plaintiff’s lawsuit and television appearance on Fox News, the court filings argue that a contentious opening statement in defendant Kim’s TikTok review—”Do not go to Wave Plastic [Surgery] in Koreatown, Los Angeles”—does not constitute defamation.
The 27-page court filing by Kim’s attorneys cites Yelp reviews by other members of the public that legal counsel contends corroborate aspects of what Kim touched on in her video.
The motion to strike also states that “truth is a complete defense to defamation,” and argues that Kim’s review was substantially true.
A hearing is scheduled for April 16.