Professional people spend years establishing their reputations, but it is only too easy for them to be smeared in a few seconds on the Internet. However, a case in which a consultant dermatologist won libel damages from a former patient showed that, with the right professional advice, the law will see good names restored.
The doctor instructed solicitors after the patient published an online blog alleging that he had subjected her to an incompetent liposuction procedure with unsatisfactory results. She accused him of performing the operation without anaesthetic and with excessive roughness, resulting in unnecessary and severe pain.
In granting a default judgment against the patient, the High Court noted that she had not responded to the doctor’s claim. Several of the imputations made by the blog were clearly defamatory and had caused serious harm to the doctor’s reputation. A number of his prospective clients had cancelled procedures as a result and he had endured distress, hurt, embarrassment and financial loss.
Because the patient had put in no defence to the claim, and had therefore made no assertion that the allegations were justified, it was possible to deal swiftly with the case on a summary basis, without the need for a hearing. The Court issued a permanent injunction which forbade the patient from continuing the publication of the words complained of, or any similar words. She was also ordered to pay the doctor £6,000 in damages and his legal costs.