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Business liability question

Sunnyvale, CA |

We are working on a website where users can share content related to particular health condition, communicate with each other, approach related businesses, have Q&A with those businesses. None of the opinions on the site willl be ours. In case, if a user is harmed following any advice from this site, is the website business considered responsible in any way? If the website business may be considered liable, what we need to do to cover ourselves from such litigations?

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Attorney answers 4


Federal law can protect the site from defamation and copyright claims, pursuant to 47 U.S.C. § 230 and § 512 of the Copyright Act.

But a site like this clearly needs legal help drafting its terms of use, since so many issues are implication, besides defamation and copyright, such as privacy, trade libel, HIPAA disclosures, use by minors, etc.

And in addition to proper website disclaimers and disclosures, you need general business help structuring the company, choosing a viable and available domain name and trademark, creating contracts with vendors and employees, acquiring liability insurance, etc.

See a business/IP lawyer for help.

Avvo doesn't pay us for these responses, and I'm not your lawyer just because I answer this question or respond to any follow-up comments. If you want to hire me, please contact me. Otherwise, please don't expect a further response. We need an actual written agreement to form an attorney-client relationship. I'm only licensed in CA and you shouldn't rely on this answer, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it's impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue.



We do a great deal of work in this area and have many clients in healthcare and related services doing similar things. My colleague is on point, much of your liability can be greatly mitigated in the drafting of the terms and conditions of use for the site.

Whether you need to be HIPAA compliant depends on who you are and what exactly you are doing. If your platform plans on dispensing specific medical advice you have a lot more to think about than if you are merely offering a forum for people to come together and discuss issues.

Most of here, including myself, offer a free phone consultation. You should of course have a professional handle this for you to make certain your interests are protected.

I will link you so some general info below.

Best regards,
Natoli-Lapin, LLC
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I agree with prior counsel. You really need to ensure that the terms of use for the site are detailed and account for the numerous issues that can arise from use of the site. You also need to make sure that your business is organized properly to avoid any liability being passed through to you and your partners. With sufficient planning and detailed terms of use, you should be able to minimize any exposure your site would have. I would highly recommend contacting an attorney for this. You can find a referral on this site, or you can call me as I have numerous clients in the Bay Area and would be happy to provide you with a free consultation.

All information provided is for general purposes only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. For more information, please visit my website at


I would make a very large disclaimer on every page of the site in large font, bold type, underlined and in italics. Make it bright and unavoidable. That disclaimer should read, among other things: 1) if you need immediate medical assistance, dial 911, 2) no information on this site should be considered medical advice, 3) consult your physician for all serious medical conditions, and 4) the information on this site is provided by random users who may or may not have medical training. In no way should the information on any of this website perform as a substitute for personal, medical advice from a living doctor in your area.

... Or something to that effect. I can think of a myriad of other things that might be helpful, but I would start there. The law generally operates on principles of reasonableness and common sense. So put yourself in the shoes of someone who took bad advice on your site and think of what it would take to keep them from suing you. Then hire a lawyer in your area to review what you came up with , provide suggestion, and beef it up. This is not an expensive project from a legal perspective.

Good luck in your new business venture.