Facebook post leads to N$100 000 lawsuit

16 August 2019 | Justice

A public Facebook post criticising the professional conduct of a Mariental doctor is at the centre of a N$100 000 defamation suit filed at the Windhoek High Court this year.

Dr Berit David Platt is suing Arnoldus Sydney Apols following a public Facebook post on 6 November 2018, in which Apols alleged the doctor had rudely instructed a security guard to remove an elderly woman from his practice. This allegedly took place after the woman had complained of the effects of an injection the doctor had given her.

The post was made public, allowing anybody to view and comment on it, and could still be viewed yesterday. The post had attracted 44 comments, 53 reactions and was shared 131 times to date. Several people who commented made threats of violence against Dr Platt and agreed with the post's allegations of unprofessional behaviour by the doctor. The post includes an allegation that Apols had heard similar complaints “of your irrogance and lack of respect towards your clients (sic)” and concludes with the warning “For you and your security watch this space (sic).”

Dr Platt claims that the post caused grave injury to his name and reputation, in addition to his feelings and dignity.

His court documents state that he is widely known in Namibia and is “a respected general practitioner in a small town who takes great pride in his medical oath as a medical practitioner”. Platt argues that the post depicts him as “a person without any integrity as a medical practitioner and of questionable reputation, abusive/aggressive behaviour towards his patients, lack of honesty and integrity, and without any moral fibre.”

He further claims that the post was “wrongful and defamatory” and asks the court to award him damages of N$100 000.

Dr Platt's legal papers include printouts of Apols's Facebook post and some of the comments. Some commentators encouraged Apols to report the doctor to a medical body, while others said he should have assaulted the doctor. This week High Court Judge Hannelie Prinsloo was informed that settlement negotiations between the parties had failed. The parties asked the court to postpone the matter for three weeks.

Frieda Schulz of Neves Legal Practitioners is acting on behalf of Dr Platt, while Apols is represented by Hassan Engelbrecht of Brockerhoff & Associates Legal Practitioners.

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