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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Dentist Says TV Report Killed His Business

CHICAGO (CN) - A dentist claims in court that a television news report about botched implant procedures he allegedly performed ruined his practice and left career in a shambles.

The report in question aired on Chicago's ABC-7 in October 2014. During it reporter Jason Knowles talks to two former patients of Dr. Irfan Atcha who received his "all-on-4" dental implant procedure.

One of the patients, Lottie Rogers, said during the interview that two of her teeth broke off during the procedure, and Atcha's assistants damaged her lip while making a mold.

The other patient, Josephine McCaskill, said her appearance and speech were different after receiving a partial implant and dentures, and that she reported her concerns about the procedure to the Indiana Dental Association.

She said the "findings from an Indiana Dental Association report back her claims."

But in a complaint filed in Cook County circuit court on October 30, Atcha says Knowles's report was "malicious, defamatory, false and salacious allegations."

According to the complaint, the aired report "was edited in such a manner as to portray the plaintiff as incapable in his profession" and "presented the footage with false statements made in the form of insinuations and questions regarding the plaintiff's professional reputation, character and competence."

The dentist's attorney, Luke Casson of Andreou Casson Ltd. in Chicago, told Courthouse News that the story caused "catastrophic damage" to Atcha's $6 million a year business and "basically shut it down."

Casson acknowledged the two patients were "clearly were upset about the condition of their teeth," but said they are "certainly the exception to the rule."

The complaint says that Atcha's procedure requires "temporary non-removable teeth on the same day as treatment" and patients are informed that "final implantation required 6-9 months."

According to Casson, McCaskill left town before her procedure was finalized. He says the IDA investigation was never official and there "was just no action ... mainly because there was no evidence of wrongdoing."

He added that Rogers "has had a number of serious dental problems" prior to Atcha's treatment, and her main complaint was about a chipped denture in her temporary teeth.

Casson also criticized Knowles for reporting Atcha was "on indefinite probation with the Indiana Dental Board" and for conducting an interview in which an agent from the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency said his client was not board certified and had no qualifications for his specializations.

"He was always licensed," Casson said, adding that Atcha has been licensed in Indiana, Illinois and Florida since 1996.

Casson said the Indiana state board did take action against Atcha for allegedly falsely advertising his qualifications, but, attorney said the Marion County Superior Court ultimately found the dentists claims were not false, and that his "advertising was constitutionally protected."

The complaint claims ABC knew that "nothing in Atcha's advertising was false or misleading in any way," but nevertheless refused to correct the story.

"Even after being told on numerous occasions that their version of the story was untrue," says the complaint, ABC continued to leave the story online.

Particularly galling, the complaint says, is that the report "created the false impression that the plaintiff was subject to discipline because of 'shoddy dental work'" even though the only disciplinary action ever taken against Atcha involved the amount and content of advertising.

According to Casson "a responsible news organization would always take care to be sure they are getting all of the information right," and should present its information "in a fair and even-handed manner." To run a story with the information they had, he says, "is outrageous."

Atcha is seeking compensatory and punitive damages on claims of defamation, false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

ABC-7 Chicago declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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