Dr. Mowlavi Chalene Johnson | Editor's Note
We invite you to read the court documents as evidenced by the Doctor's sworn testimony reflecting his 15+ years of practice.
DECLARATION OF DR. ARIAN MOWLAVI
Dr. Arian Mowlavi hereby declares and states as follows:
I. I am the plaintiff in this action and make this declaration in support of Ill) opposition to Defendants Chalene Johnson and Team Johnsons, Inc.'s Special Motion to Strike (the "Motion"). I have personal knowledge of the facts set forth herein except if stated on information and belief, and as to those matters, I believe them to be true. If called as a witness. I could and would competently testify to the matters stated herein.
2. I am a board-certified plastic surgeon and maintain my surgery practice in Laguna Beach, CA. I am also an author, having authored High Definition Liposuction and train other physicians in high-definition cosmetic surgery techniques. My Background with Defendants and How They Began Attacking me Online
3. In or about July 2021, a woman named Chalene Johnson sought out my medical care. After a consultation and additional appointments, Johnson came in for her agreed-upon procedures. Given the location of Johnson's intended procedures, Ms. Johnson undressed for the consultation, marking, and surgery process. The surgery was conducted with proper care and was completed without any complications.
4. Beginning in mid-August 2021, Ms. Johnson began publishing false statements about me, my practice, and my medical care on Yelp.com, her podcast, The Chalene Show (the "Podcast"), which she distributes through Team Johnson Inc., her monetized Instagram account, Facebook account, and Tik-Tok account. These false and offensive postings began to escalate in frequency (multiple a day, almost every day) as well as in sensationalism (increasing shock value of the statements) until the filing of the First Amended Complaint ("FAC'') in this action, and continue until today.
5. I believe Ms. Johnson had a media reach of about 700,000 people just on her Instagram alone when she began posting about me, and since she is local to the Laguna Beach area, she is particularly known and prominent in my community. Attached hereto as Exhibit 1 is a true and correct screenshot of Ms. Johnson's Instagram account as of August 2021, showing she had approximately 707,000 followers and self-identified as a "marketing expert." Ms. Johnson engages in the business of monetizing Instagram and other social platforms and coaching users on how to do the same through her marketing tactics.
6. In or about September 2021, Ms. Johnson's online attacks escalated as she began to use my name, the name, or my practice directly. My social media account name directly in her messaging to her followers to identify me and to publicly communicate with me, making false accusations publicly that I have committed malpractice on multiple occasions, that a patient died on my operating table, and other related horrendous allegations, all of which are patently false.
7. By October 2021, Ms. Johnson had publicly posted more than 50 times targeting me with no indication of stopping. I tried to reach Ms. Johnson privately through counsel several times to address and respond to any concerns and also asked her to please stop her harassing, damaging and threatening conduct, as it was affecting me, my family, my staff and patients. Ms. Johnson ignored my private communications and proceeded with more frequent, sensational and false public postings. Defendants' Defamatory Statements and their Falsity 8. Between August and November 2021, Ms. Johnson has posted approximately I00 times about me and/or my practice. As detailed in the FAC, below are several of the postings containing defamatory and damaging statements published by her on social media or her Podcast with true and correct copies of the screenshots of those postings submitted as exhibits hereto, as indicated:
a. Exhibit 2: August 13, 2021, Yelp.com review stating "[Mowlavi] was quick to tell me that my 'ass' needed a lot of work"; "aggressively" "grabbed onto my C-section scar"; "has absolutely zero respect for a woman's modesty or dignity; ordered me to 'get naked"'; and I "requested new surgical foam and was denied" (FAC~ 24 );
b. Exhibit 3: August 15, 2021 "Open Letter to my Plastic Surgeon" posted on Instagram whereby she states that I "order[ed] female patients to 'get naked' when it's not necessary"; "groped a woman's body and suggested [ed) she 'needs' additional surgeries"; "paraded post-operative patients, in pain, on painkillers fully nude and invited other staff or client consults to view them" with no right; "den[ied] sterile dressing change"; "use[ d] the moment a patient is standing naked being photographed before surgery in a room with three men to upsell additional surgeries." (FAC 128); c. Exhibit 4: September 25, 2021, Instagram posts of a partial spreadsheet listing, by date, alleged background information about me with matters ranging from registrations of my business to traffic infractions to small claims matters. In the midst are multiple references to "Medical Malpractice" as well as a reference to "Patient Surgery Accident'' and "Patient Death." (FAC 133);
d. Exhibit 5: September 25, 2021, Instagram post of another partial spreadsheet listing alleged Yelp review removals with a caption that reads, "So how would you feel if you chose your surgeon based on 5 Star reviews only to investigate [sic] after the fact that hundreds of negative reviews had been removed from Yelp" (FAC 135);
e. Exhibit 6: September 29, 2021, Instagram posts stating, among other things, that she has "uncovered the sexual misconduct, corruption, medical malpractice and patient death at the hands of [her] plastic surgeon." (FAC 137);
f. Exhibit 7: September 29, 2021, Instagram post stating that "a patient died on [my] table." (FAC 137); g. Exhibit 8: September 30, 2021, Instagram post stating, "I am outraged that a surgeon can lose their privileges at multiple hospitals. Patient death have dozens of medical malpractice cases. 210 hidden. Yelp reviews and the medical board allows this." (FAC 141);
h. Exhibit 9: October 2, 2021, Instagram posts stating, "after my botched surgery I learned that he had done this to hundreds of women ... " (i.e. "grabbed both of my breasts with his bare hands and told me he wanted to make me hot"); "that a patient had died on his table"; and "that his anesthesiologist had two DUIs" (FAC 148); Exhibit 10: October 11, 2021, Instagram post series titled "PSA Shocking facts I uncovered about my plastic surgeon after the fact" with the heading "Dr. Arian Mowlavi aka DrLaguna," which state, among other things that my conduct "resulted in a patient's death."; "Just moments before surgery, while women arc naked, nervous and vulnerable he regularly degrades and intimidates them into additional surgeries"; "Past complications, infections, and patient death have resulted in him losing privileges at several local hospitals"; "He regularly leaves in the middle of surgery to consult with new patients ... '': "He uses threats, intimidation and lawsuit to silence those who have the right ... ": sharing a photo of her bandaged "scar," claims "this was supposed to be a C-section revision'' despite previously publicly declaring she had a "mini-tuck." (F AC J. Exhibit 11: October 11, 2021, Instagram post stating that I have "a history of ... suing people to silence them." (FAC 1 58);
k. Exhibit 12: October 2 I, 2021 Instagram video post stating that I once ''grabbed the tube that [a patient] was intubated with and yank[ed] it out like a sword ... This means the patient could die. The Doctor storms off." (FAC 158); and
I. Exhibit 13: October 20, 2021 Instagram posts regarding a sign she intended to make to read: "You shouldn't have to hire a PI to know if your surgeon has killed someone"; "California allows doctors to continue to practice even after 2 DUI's"; and "Stop allowing doctors to hide patient deaths and malpractice cases" (FAC 1 60).
9. Defendants' multiple Podcast episodes have also republished the false statements about me. Several such statements were published on Defendants' October 1, 2021 Podcast episode (a transcription of which has been filed with the Motion by Defendants as Exhibit M to Michele Hemeseth's Declaration) including the following: that I "created a HIPPA violation by addressing [Johnson] by [her] full name and also sharing some of the details of [her] treatment"; implications that I committed sexually inappropriate acts while Ms. Johnson was on the operating table by stating that her "vagina [was] sore" after her surgery; statements that I caused a patient's death and "failed to report it in a timely fashion"; stating that her procedure was "not a mini tuck. I didn't ask for that. I wasn't told I was going to get that. That's not the standard of care"; "how ridiculous is it that a patient dies at the hands of a doctor and that doctor is not required to disclose that to you"; and 'But don't you think it's pretty important to know that your anesthesiologist has two DU ls.'' (FAC 42.)
I0. The statements are referred to in paragraphs 8 and 9, and as supported by their respective exhibits. arc collectively referred to herein as the "Defamatory Statements." 11. Over the course of the last several months, Defendants have republished and reposted the Defamatory Statements or variations thereof on other social media platforms including Facebook.
12. On information and belief: each of the Defamatory Statement posts has been viewed b. thousands of viewers. and each receives an average of 8,000-40,000 .. likes" and hundreds of thousands of comments by third parties expressing hate, animosity, and degradation towards me and my family.
13. Each of the Defendants' Defamatory Statements is false.
14. During my entire career, no patient has ever died on my table. I have also never been found liable for the death of any patient, or engaged in a "patient surgery accident: I understand that the Defendants' false statements about this relate to the death of a former patient, Ms. Swarthout. The unfortunate circumstances of her death are confidential and not relevant to this case. However. she neither passed away on my table nor in my operating room or office. She did not even pass away on the day of her surgery with me but rather several days later at a hospital when I was not present. Ms. Swarthout's survivors filed a lawsuit following her death, but as public records show, this lawsuit was settled with no admission of liability.
15. I have never been found liable of medical malpractice. In my more than 15 years of practice, as is very common among plastic surgeons, I have been a defendant in medical malpractice lawsuits. In each of these lawsuits, however, I either defeated the case by defense verdict or the actions were voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiff: mutually resolved with no admission of liability, or remain pending. Each of these civil cases can be found by a case search and are public records so I believe anyone who wishes to obtain information about their status can easily do so online.
16. Outside of the lawsuit against Ms. Johnson, I have never sued a patient or employee in my entire career. Besides the current proceedings against Defendants. I have only filed one other lawsuit in my life which concerned a dispute unrelated to my medical care. Contrary to what Ms. Johnson has asserted, I do not have any "history" of any kind of "suing people to silence them."
17. My office monitors online reviews about our practice to ensure they are coming from actual patients and conform with each online platform's community guidelines. I have never removed or deleted truthful Online reviews from patients about my work in an attempt to manipulate my online rating or otherwise. or could I, as I have no control over Yelp or Google (the main review platforms).
18. I have never ''lost privileges• at "multiple'' local hospitals "due to Past complications, infections, and patient death." In fact, I have never lost privileges" from any medical facility at all, and especially not for any alleged wrongdoing or medical misconduct. At the beginning of my career, I was involved and had "privileges" with multiple medical facilities. As the years went on and my private practice became busier, I voluntarily resigned from some of these facilities as the workload would not be sustainable. These resignations were all voluntary and due to my availability, not ever for misconduct. Regarding Providence Mission Hospital, which Defendants mention in their Motion, I voluntarily resigned my privileges from Providence Mission Hospital on or about October 17, 2018. Attached as Exhibit 14 is a true and correct copy of my letter of voluntary resignation.
19. I never denied Ms. Johnson any sterile dressings or foam. On the contrary, at the first moment I was advised that Ms. Johnson felt uncomfortable with her post-operative experience with her massage therapist, I immediately offered to and went to her home to conduct her post-operative appointment there. During which time I provided her new dressings and foam.
20. The anesthesiologist who participated in Ms. Johnson's surgery with me was Dr. Addo. Dr. Siva Naranjan did not participate in and had no connection to, Ms. Johnson's surgery at all.
21. Prior to Defendants' statements and accusations made that are at issue in this case, I had never been found liable of or accused of engaging in sexual misconduct with my surgical patients. I certainly did not engage in any sexual misconduct with Ms. Johnson during any of my interactions with her. I take my oath as a medical professional very seriously and would not jeopardize or compromise it in such a horrific manner.
22. When patients come into my office. they are coming in for elective surgery and looking for advice as to what should and can be done on their body. It is for this reason that I evaluate the patient's body and provide my opinion, as I did with Ms. Johnson. I also engage with patients in a casual manner to break the ice so patients feel more at ease and comfortable during the experience and do not feel intimidated being at a doctor's office. I respect that Ms. Johnson may not have liked my bedside manner or perhaps what she deemed a casual demeanor. Indeed, not all personalities mesh well. Regardless, during the consultation and surgery process, my conduct and medical care of Ms. Johnson was appropriate. Due to the location of Ms. Johnson's desired surgeries, it was necessary for her to be undressed so she could initially be evaluated, then marked, and operated on in a sterile manner. I did not "grope" Ms. Johnson but provided a medical examination in the areas she desired to be operated on. Moreover, I did not 'parade" Ms. Johnson to client consults or staff. The only individuals in my office who saw Ms. Johnson's body were those who were part of the surgical team and her post-operative massage therapist. Lastly, I did not try to "upsell additional surgeries" when Ms. Johnson was "standing naked being photographed before surgery.'' Ms. Johnson's procedures were planned and finalized prior to the date of her surgery.
23. Outside of court filings, I have not addressed Ms. Johnson by her full name or improperly disclosed details of her treatment. As Exhibit 2 shows, Ms. Johnson posted to Yelp significant details of her procedure and treatment and identified herself by telling the review readers about her Podcast, where she had already published her procedure and treatment details. She then also directed her Instagram followers to Yelp so they can identify her review and read it. Attached as Exhibit 15 is a true and correct copy of this posting. I responded to her Yelp post generally, only addressing her by her first I name (even though her full name was already known), and noting that her use of her significant online following to damage my practice was not reasonable. This only time I have posted publicly concerning Ms. Johnson or the subject matter.
24. I have never intentionally extubated a patient in my career. Sometimes, if a patient's tube is not properly or thoroughly secured by the anesthesiologist (whose responsibility it is to do so), it can come out if it comes into contact or gets stuck on something. I believe on one occasion during a procedure. my elbow grazed the patient's drapes which serves as a barrier between the patient's face and the operating area and the tube was somehow hooked to the draping causing the patient's tube to be released as it had not been thoroughly secured. I was neither angry at this time at the patient nor did I storm off rather, the tube was immediately re-secured and the surgery continued. The only person to ever allege that I extubated a patient was a former nurse, Jason Vance, who has submitted a declaration in support of Defendants' Motion. What Mr. Vance's declaration omits, however, is that shortly after making this allegation., he retracted his statement and apologized, indicating that he was not feeling well when he made the initial allegation and acknowledging that I did not intentionally extubate a patient, stating "I know you wouldn't intentionally extubate your patient." A true and correct copy of my text messages with Mr. Vance reflecting his statements is attached hereto as Exhibit t 6. 25. I very seldom will step out of the operating room during surgery. In fact, my staff is aware that I do not like to do so and will only do so if needed. If I do, however. my absence is for a short period of time during which the operation is halted until my return unless another surgeon on my team is present. During any such wait time, the surgical team may utilize the time to re-drape the patient, turn the patient, or prepare tools, but the surgery does not continue without a surgeon present.
26. Patients discuss and agree to their surgeries on a day or days prior to their surgery. There is the preparation that goes into surgery as well as consent forms that must be signed by patients prior to a particular surgery. Accordingly, statements that I have performed surgeries that have not been consented to and agreed upon with a patient are false.
27. Defendants' Motion contains numerous third-party declarations, many of which are not directly related to the Defamatory Statements or my relationship with Ms. Johnson, but rather appear to be submitted to prejudice the Court against me.