A vet who claims he was forced to sell his surgery after comments made online by a former client is suing for $100,000 in what is believed to be the first Twitter defamation case to make it to court in Queensland.

Allen O'Grady, 65, who operated the Albion vet surgery and the Eatons Hill vet surgery northwest of Brisbane, told Brisbane District Court today he was hurt and upset when then law student Carrie Barlow defamed him seven times on Facebook, Twitter and online reviews over 10 days in October 2014.

 

Dog Valentine owned by Carrie Barlow. She is being sued by a vet for defamation over social media posts.
Dog Valentine owned by Carrie Barlow. She is being sued by a vet for defamation over social media posts.

The case is believed to be the first Twitter defamation battle in the state to go to hearing.

Mr O'Grady told the court that he sold the Albion practice in March 2015, because his wife was getting very upset and "all this social media was the tipping point".

"It was stressing her out," Mr O'Grady said, adding his surgery had been inundated with abusive and nasty phone calls after Ms Barlow posted on social media.

The court heard that Mr O'Grady sued Ms Barlow, the owner of beagle Valentine, after she vented her frustration on Twitter in October 2014, claiming Mr O'Grady's Albion vet surgery had marked up dog antibiotics and other drugs by 400 per cent.

Ms Barlow's posts were triggered by a $427 vet bill to give Valentine two stitches after he was attacked by another dog.

Valentine was treated by another vet, Brad Konners, and not Mr O'Grady, the court heard.

Allen Grady leaves Brisbane District Court recently. Picture: Josh Woning/AAP
Allen Grady leaves Brisbane District Court recently. Picture: Josh Woning/AAP

Mr O'Grady claims the defamatory imputations in Ms Barlow's posts include that the surgery grossly overcharges its clients, lacks morals, takes advantage of clients, is uncaring, is petty, and lacks compassion.

"Shame on you 400 per cent mark-up" she tweeted on October 14, 2014.

Mr O'Grady said a classmate of his son, a student at Brisbane Grammar School, teased him for having "dishonest" parents who were "ripping off clients".

"The vet is a very grumpy (sic) who should not be dealing with people or animals," Ms Barlow wrote on True Local on October 15.

Mr O'Grady said Ms Barlow was charged $32.50 for the antibiotic Amoxyclav.

He said it was purchased by the practice for $6, but his practice had to pay postage and for Mr Konners' expertise.

He said Ms Barlow would have had to wait five days to receive it, had she purchased online at a cheaper rate.

After paying the bill Ms Barlow told the vet surgery she wished to sever her ties with the practice.

The practice gave her a letter saying they would be unable to provide emergency after-hours treatment in future.

 

Carrie Barlow outside Brisbane District Court recently. Picture: Josh Woning/AAP
Carrie Barlow outside Brisbane District Court recently. Picture: Josh Woning/AAP

 

 

 

Carrie Barlow with Valentine
Carrie Barlow with Valentine

 

 

Mark Martin QC, counsel for Mr O'Grady, told the court that the letter had obviously annoyed Ms Barlow, triggering her to go out of her way to do as much damage as she could to encourage others to not attend the Albion vet practice.

Ms Barlow deleted Facebook posts in November and later deleted tweets, after she was sent two legal letters by Mr O'Grady's lawyers, the court heard.

Ms Barlow declined a request by Mr O'Grady's lawyers that she publish a statement acknowledging that Albion veterinary surgery was a reputable, honest and reliable business.

The hearing continues before Judge Suzanne Sheridan.



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