The article claimed that Dr Antonio Serrano, a GP then practising in East Sussex, misdiagnosed a bus driver patient as alcohol dependent without any investigation or tests, and referred him to the DVLA, thereby causing him to lose his bus and driving licenses.
The article – titled ‘a whole year of hell, thanks to a foreign doctor’ – said the patient had been ‘robbed’ of his livelihood, and claimed a 'language barrier' between him and Dr Serrano had contributed to misdiagnosis.
But judge Mr Justice Dingemans ruled on Monday that Dr Serrano had acted correctly and awarded him £45,000 in damages for the article, which he judged had influenced Dr Serrano to resign from his practice.
Article criticised by judge
In the written court judgment, he said the article had ‘defamatory meanings’ which could ‘not be justified’. ‘Nothing in the article’ could be described as fair comment.
Evidence presented at the hearing showed that the newspaper knew Dr Serrano, who has worked in the UK for nearly 20 years, spoke fluent English at the time of its publication, and that there had been no ‘language barrier’ between doctor and patient, as was alleged in the article.
The court found that Dr Serrano had been justified in reporting the patient to the DVLA. Judge Dingemans said the patient had been ‘well served’ by Dr Serrano, who correctly diagnosed the patient and forced him to confront his excessive drinking.
He said: ‘Dr Serrano was a GP trainer who knew about his own duties to report to the DVLA, and who had trained students not to give in to the understandable temptations to avoid reporting to the DVLA so that a patient would not lose their license and livelihood.’
Dr Serrano pleased
Speaking after the ruling, Dr Serrano said he was ‘extremely pleased’ with the outcome of the trial. ‘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.’
Associated Newspapers, which publishes the Daily Mail, has yet to respond to a request for comment.