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« Can Understanding How Skin Resists Tearing Improve Cosmetic Procedures? | Main | Getting Naked on the Internet: What does the law say? »
Friday
Mar132015

Lifestyle Lift Abruptly Shuts Down

According to the Better Business Bureau's website, Lifestyle Lift is believed to be out of business.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the company, which claims to offer a “minor one-hour procedure with major results,” abruptly shut down a majority of its 40 surgery centers Monday and announced it would consider filing for bankruptcy.

The company, founded in 2001 by Dr. David Kent, had 40 surgery centers nationwide offering what it billed as a less-invasive face-lift procedure that required only local anesthesia and a shorter recovery time. Its advertisements boasted that the services are affordable for everyday people who want to “look as young on the outside as you feel on the inside.”

In a letter to employees sent Sunday and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Kent said the company “has made the decision to temporarily cease operations until further notice.” The letter tells employees not to report to work “until further notice unless otherwise instructed.”

In a letter sent to employees over the weekend, Dr. David Kent – the founder of the company – said he made the “decision to temporarily cease operations until further notice.”

“The future of the Company is uncertain and therefore it is currently developing both a wind down plan to close the business and a reorganization plan to accommodate a new investment,” the letter states.

A spokesperson for Michigan-based Lifestyle Lift tells the WSJ that the company is considering its options, one of which is filing for bankruptcy.

As of Monday, Lifestyle Lift is only providing some post-operation checkup procedures.

As one of the 'franchise model' cosmetic medicine businesses Lifestyle Lift saw dramatic growth before a series of setbacks. In 2008 it sued Realself for allowing negative reviews to be posted on the site. Realself countersued claiming that Lifestyle Lift employees were posting fake counter-reviews in violation of the sites user agreement (commonly known as 'astroturfing').

Santa Clara University School of Law professor Eric Goldman, who advised RealSelf on the case, posted about the issue on his personal blog:

No matter how many times I see it–and in the Internet era, I see it all too frequently–I always shake my head in disappointment and frustration when a company uses trademark law to lash out against unflattering consumer reviews. To these companies, trademark law is a cure-all tonic for their marketplace travails, and trademark doctrine is so plastic and amorphous that defendants have some difficulty mounting a proper defense. As a result, all too frequently, the threat of a trademark lawsuit causes the intermediary to capitulate and excise valuable content from the Internet.

In its answer, RealSelf goes on the offensive and alleges that Lifestyle Lift directly or indirectly posted shill reviews to the Lifestyle Lift discussion, thereby breaching RealSelf’s user agreement. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another lawsuit where the message board operator sued a company for shill postings, so I think this case may be breaking important new legal ground.

The bruhaha led to an investigation by the New York Attorney General’s office and in 2009, then-attorney general Andrew Cuomo announced Lifestyle Lift would pay $300,000 and stop posting fake reviews online.

Cuomo said in a statement at the time that Lifestyle Lift’s “attempt to generate business by duping consumers was cynical, manipulative and illegal.”

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