05/29/2013 // Dallas, Texas, United States // (press release)
The Texas Supreme Court recently addressed defamation in a dispute between two physicians. Hancock v. Variyam, No. 11-0772, __ S.W.3d __ (Tex. May 17, 2013).
A defamatory statement is a statement that tends to injure a person’s reputation. A statement is considered defamatory “per se” if it injures a person in his office, profession, or occupation. Defamatory per se statements are considered so hurtful that a jury may presume general damages; actual damages for loss of reputation are often hard to prove in defamation cases. Here, a doctor sent a letter to colleagues and others accusing another physician of lacking veracity and of speaking in half truths. The plaintiff received $90,000 in actual damages for mental anguish and loss of reputation and $85,000 in exemplary damages. The appellate court affirmed this verdict.
The Texas Supreme Court reversed the award. Because the statements did not accuse the physician of lacking a necessary skill that is unique to the profession of being a physician, the Court concluded that the statements did not defame the physician per se. Allegations that a doctor lacks veracity do not adversely affect his fitness for proper conduct as a physician.
The Dallas, Texas business and employment lawyers at Rogge Dunn Group PC regularly represent physicians and physician groups. To contact Dallas business and employment lawyers of Rogge Dunn Group PC email us at info@RoggeDunnGroup.com
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