Cape Cod, Mass. — A Massachusetts veterinarian will receive at least $225,000 stemming from a libel suit against the Boston Herald for a 1995 article accusing the DVM of malpractice.
CAPE COD, MASS. — A Massachusetts veterinarian will receive at least $225,000 stemming from a libel suit against the Boston Herald for a 1995 article accusing the DVM of malpractice.
The Barnstable County jury found six libelous statements in a front-page story that charged then 30-year-old Mark T. Reilly, DVM, with neglecting and mishandling the treatment of an ailing dog that died. As a result, the veterinarian lost his job, and his reputation suffered, the plaintiff's attorney and brother Ed Reilly says.
In addition to the article's publication, a civil suit was filed and the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Veterinary Medicine investigated the incident. Reilly was cleared in both cases. At presstime, the practitioner was performing relief work in the Dominican Republic and could not be reached by DVM Newsmagazine for comment. He now owns Mid-Cape Animal Hospital in Marstons Mills, Mass.
In the lawsuit, Ed Reilly contends newspaper reporters never contacted him or his brother for the story and a Herald editor disregarded the veterinarian's phone call to present a defense.
"My brother never did anything wrong," the attorney says. "The reporter took the story straight from the dog owners and ran with it. My brother was in negotiations to become a partner at the practice when he got fired, and it destroyed him. This is not about the money; this has always been about clearing my brother's name."
While the jury awarded Reilly $225,000, Massachusetts law provides 12-percent interest from the day a case is filed, raising the total to roughly $430,000. In addition, the veterinarian also has filed a consumer protection act complaint, which is pending in superior court. The case allows the judge to mandate double or triple the jury's award based on allegations the Herald was not only negligent but reckless for printing the article, Ed Reilly says.
Until that case is decided, Herald attorney M. Robert Dushman says newspaper officials won't make a decision on an appeal. He says the 1995 article was based on proceedings filed at the licensing board and submitted to the newspaper by the dog owner. That fact was kept from the jury, he says.
Satisfied with the verdict, Ed Reilly says, "That alone was the most important thing for us."