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Dentist vs. dentist suit over racial defamation


Published: October 9, 2009

A SEASIDE dentist who claims a Monterey dentist left a voicemail message badmouthing the professional training he received in his Turkish homeland has filed a defamation lawsuit.

Arslan Soyarslan of Seaside and his patient, Jerry Miller, filed the suit Sept. 29 in Monterey County Superior Court over a voicemail message they say Dr. Maurice Lindly left with Miller berating the dental training Soyarslan received in Turkey.

According to the suit, Lindly left the message in October 2008 after Miller decided to change dentists, from Lindly to Soyarslan, who is from Turkey and was trained as a dentist in that country and the United States.

“You’ve decided to use a Turkish doctor in Seaside?” the lawsuit claims Lindly said on the voicemail. “Well, Jerry, you know you get what you pay for. All dentists charge around the same, but if that’s what you want … if you want to trust your dental health to someone who trained in Turkey … well, I’m praying for you.”

According to the suit, filed by Hugo Gerstl, Soyarslan and Miller’s attorney, the message “could only be taken to mean that Soyarslan was an inferior dentist.”

“Why would he say these bad things about me to another patient?” Soyarslan told The Pine Cone. “That means he must be talking about me to other people, too.”

Lindly declined to comment on the case.

Gerstl said he has a recording of Lindly’s message, which was made after Soyarslan’s staff requested that Lindly transfer Miller’s X-rays.

“It’s so tacky, and it hurts my feelings,” Soyarslan said of the message. “Because, among doctors, there should be some kind of courtesy.”

Soyarslan, who has lived in the United States for 30 years, was born and raised in Zonguldak, Turkey, and studied dentistry at Istanbul University.

After his training there, Soyarslan said he performed postgraduate work at New York University and a residency at Western Pennsylvania Hospital.

“I have very high standards,” Soyarslan said. “We have many very happy patients.”

Soyarslan and Miller are suing for intentional infliction of mental and emotional distress.

The phone message was “hurtful and shameful,” and the plaintiffs “sustained great emotional injury,” according to the suit.

The lawsuit also alleges intentional interference with business relations.

The voicemail message was “malicious and was made for the sole purpose of diverting Miller away from Soyarslan and back to Lindly for purposes of Lindly deriving profit at Soyarslan’s expense,” the lawsuit states.

Miller, who had found out he had throat cancer not long before Lindly left the message, was “horrified” by the call, and for more than a month lost confidence in Soyarslan and Lindly as dentists, the suit says.

Soyarslan told The Pine Cone Miller is now a patient of his.

Though Soyarslan and Miller’s suit seeks more than $25,000 in damages, Soyarslan said it’s not so much about the money as about letting others know he’s a good dentist.
“I’m a very enthusiastic student of dentistry,” said Soyarslan, who added he’s never met Lindly. “This man doesn’t know anything about me.”