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British GP wins libel case against partners

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 16 January 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:148
  1. Clare Dyer, legal correspondent
  1. BMJ

    A British GP has accepted £50000 ($80000) damages for libel from his partners over suggestions in a press release that he was guilty of misconduct warranting his expulsion from the partnership.

    Dr Barry Robinson's partners barred him from the Lyme practice in Lyme Regis, Dorset, when he returned from a Christmas holiday two years ago. He won an injunction allowing him back to work but sued for libel after a press release issued on behalf of his partners in July 1997imputed serious misconduct to him and implied that he had acted improperly and unfairly in litigation over his expulsion.

    Dr Robinson agreed to accept the out of court settlement from his then partners, Andrew Llewellyn, Lindsay Slater, and Forbes Watson, and the then practice manager, Peter Wardley. The four will also have to pay Dr Robinson's costs, estimated at £100000, and their own legal costs.

    Dr Watson, who was a probationary partner, has since left the practice, as has Mr Wardley, then newly installed as practice manager. Dr Llewellyn has resigned from the partnership with effect from next March. Dr Robinson and Dr Slater are still partners and are seeking a third partner to replace Dr Llewellyn. Dr Robinson, who attributed the attempt to expel him to a “clash of personalities,” said that the move to bar him from the practice had come “completely out of the blue.” He added: “They shut up shop, removed my belongings and locked the door. I got a letter saying 'don't come back to work.'” He said that local people had assumed that to deserve such treatment he must have had AIDS, or been struck off the register.

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