NORTH CAROLINA — A Greensboro eye clinic filed a defamation lawsuit in federal district court in Greensboro in late August against NBC, alleging that the program “Dateline NBC” falsely accused the clinic of nearly performing unnecessary surgery on a patient.
The dispute arises from a May 4 broadcast, entitled “Cataract Cowboys,” that told the story of three people who posed as patients at the Southeastern Eye Center, the New York Times reported. One patient — first told by a doctor that she did not need surgery — was then told by a medical assistant that surgery was recommended, the Times reported. A doctor then told the patient again that surgery was not needed, the newspaper said. The next day the patient called the clinic to schedule surgery, the paper reported. When she returned to the clinic, NBC reporter Brian Ross interrupted a meeting between the patient and a doctor. Ross’s voice-over stated that the woman was “a few tests and a half-hour away from surgery,” the newspaper reported.
The suit, filed in federal District Court in Greensboro by Central Carolina Surgical Eye Associates and C. Richard Epes of the Southeastern Eye Center, includes claims for defamation, trespass, invasion of privacy and interference with business, said the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Rodney F. Page, according to the Washington Post. The clinic claims to have lost 30 percent of its business after the broadcast.
As required by North Carolina law, before filing the lawsuit the eye clinic demanded that NBC apologize and retract its report. NBC refused, and maintains that the “Dateline” report was fair and accurate.
(Central Carolina Surgical Eye Associates v. NBC)