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Google’s Search Box Defamed Him, Doc Says

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Google defamed a cancer surgeon by having his name pop up followed by the word "bankrupt" in its automatic complete-the-words search box, after the first six letters in his 11-letter name, the doctor claims in court.

Guy Hingston, an Australian cancer surgeon, sued Google in Federal Court.

"When an individual computer user types 'Guy Hin ...', into the Google search engine as a search, the words 'Guy Hingston Bankrupt' appears," the complaint states. "When the link(s) is clicked on, the article(s) to which the user is directed has absolutely nothing to do with a bankruptcy associated with Dr. Hingston. Dr. Hingston is not bankrupt." (Parentheses and grammar as in complaint).

A Google search this morning in Vermont (Wednesday, Dec. 26) did exactly that, for the letters "Guy Hing," but not "Guy Hin".

"Guy "Hing" caused "Guy Hingston Bankrupt" to appear as the second choice in Google's automatic suggestion box.

Hingston claims he contacted Google many times and asked it to fix the problem, with no results.

"Dr. Hingston is a surgeon practicing in Port Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia," the complaint states. "Dr. Hingston's surgical practice focuses on breast cancer. Given his professional practice and position in his community, maintaining his good reputation is critical. Dr. Hingston has lost a number of patients and financiers who are refusing to associate and/or deal with Dr. Hingston as a consequence of the reference on Google to a bankruptcy."

Hingston claims Google's automatic search result is defamatory, show him in a false light, and are "highly offensive to a reasonable person."

He claims Google was "was negligent in determining the truth of the information or whether a false impression would be created by its publication."

"This issue, and Google's continued failure to remedy this issue, despite numerous demands to do so, has caused significant harm and economic loss to Dr. Hingston in excess of the minimum jurisdiction of this court," the complaint states.

Hingston seeks at least $75,000 in damages for false light, and court costs.

He is represented by J. Scott Russo, with Russo & Duckworth, of Irvine.

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