A doctor accused of subjecting a bus driver patient to ‘a year of hell’ after he lost his licence due to drinking has successfully won £45,000 in libel damages against a national newspaper.
Spanish born Dr Jose Antonio Serrano, who worked as a GP at Roebuck House surgery, reported 55-year-old bus driver Kevin Jones, of Pentland Close, St Leonards, to the DVLA over his alcohol consumption after allegedly being told he drank half a bottle of Bacardi on some nights.
Mr Jones lost his licence for a year, losing around £17,000 in income, and former
The 45-year-old doctor said the article alleged he misdiagnosed the patient as having gout and being alcohol dependent and robbed him of his livelihood for a year before he was given his licence back.
It also claimed there was a language problem because he was a foreign doctor and that this probably led to the misdiagnosis.
In May last year Dr Serrano launched his libel claim against Associated Newspapers, the
The GP alleged the publication blackened his character and caused him to lose confidence so that he moved from his practice in Hastings to a more junior role at a surgery in neighbouring Bexhill.
At London’s High Court, Associated Newspapers vigorously defended the claim saying the article was ‘true or substantially true’.
During the court hearing Mr Jones claimed a language barrier and the ‘doctor’s incompetence’ led to his career being placed in jeopardy.
But in a judgment on Monday (October 6) following the hearing, which was heard in July, Mr Justice Dingemans ruled the article was unjustly defamatory and could not be defended as honest comment.
He found that the doctor spoke good English and had made every reasonable effort to help Mr Jones.
The judge said the bus driver rejected the doctor’s efforts to assist, and Dr Serrano was fully justified in reporting him to the DVLA back in February 2011.
He awarded the GP £45,000 and his legal costs.
After the hearing, Dr Serrano said: “I am extremely pleased with the outcome. This article was irresponsible and should never have been written. As a family doctor I have always worked hard to provide the best treatment for my patients and local community.
“After a legal process that lasted two and a half years, I am now able to dedicate the rest of my time to my family and my profession.
“I would like to thank my outstanding legal team and my colleagues who have supported me through this ordeal, as without their support I would have not been able to win the case.”
His solicitor David Taylor added: “Dr Serrano has been fully vindicated by the court. It is a tribute to his courage that he never wavered in pursuing his action even though the newspaper pursued completely unfounded defences of truth and fair comment to the bitter end.
“The right to a reputation is a vital human right, every bit as important as freedom of speech and a free press. It is right that doctors and indeed any other dedicated professional should know that where they have been subject to untrue and unjustified allegations by a tabloid or any other publication, the law is there to protect them.”