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Boronia

Brisbane vet wins defamation battle against dog owner’s online reviews

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Boronia   

This is older news (June 12th) but worth posting as it shows what harm stupidity does in bagging a business and from the occasional recommendations on Dogz I was of the impression that Albion vets were pretty good

Shame on her!

 

A Brisbane dog owner has been ordered to pay almost $30,000 in damages for defaming a vet on social media by claiming he was “grumpy”, “took advantage of a distressed pet owner” and overcharged her for drugs given to her pet.

Allen O’Grady sued Carrie Barlow, who married during the six-year court battle and became Carrie Curtis, for seven separate comments she made on Twitter, Facebook and review site True Local over 10 days to October 24, 2014.

Mr O’Grady, a veterinary surgeon, owned and operated Albion Vet Surgery and Eatons Hill Vet Surgery at the time.

According to court documents, Ms Curtis is the administrator of a Facebook group known as “Freedom for Fair Online Reviews – Australia”.

 

Carrie Barlow and her dog Valentine in 2006.

Carrie Barlow and her dog Valentine in 2006.Source:News Limited

THE VET VISIT

The judgment states Ms Curtis took her beagle Valentine to the vet for treatment on October 4, 2014 after it was attacked by two other dogs.

“The treatment was provided by an employee of the company and involved sedation, pain relief, cleaning and suturing wounds and dispensing of post-operative antibiotics.”

She was charged and paid $427 for the appointment, while also receiving a summary of fees breaking down the various costs of the vet visit.

But four days later, Ms Curtis emailed Albion Vet asking for further clarification, stating the “irresponsible owners of the vicious dogs” were refusing to reimburse her bill and the “mark-up” on one antibiotic seemed “a bit high”.

The vet practice manager called Ms Curtis on October 13 – a discussion lasting 16 minutes.

“Ms Curtis admitted that she had told the woman that she no longer intended to have her pets treated at the Albion Vet and required the records relating to her pet to be made available for collection,” the court documents state.

“At the conclusion of the conversation, an appointment was made for 8am, Wednesday 15 October 2014 for Valentine to see the vet nurse for the removal of the sutures.”

Ms Curtis received a letter from Mr O’Grady on the day of the visit stating “unfortunately” the vet was unable to provide services for her dog in the future including in-house after hours emergency service and discounted Saturday hydrobaths.

 

Carrie Curtis at the District Court in Brisbane last year. Picture: Josh Woning/AAP

Carrie Curtis at the District Court in Brisbane last year. Picture: Josh Woning/AAPSource:News Corp Australia

THE ONLINE RESPONSE

Ms Curtis then took to Twitter, True Local, the Albion Vet’s Facebook page and her own Facebook page, telling Brisbane dog owners to “Beware of the Albion Vet” and stating she had been “grossly overcharged” and “taken advantage of”.

Using an account with the handle @ValentineBeagle, she tweeted “Shame on you #albionvet”.

“I was offended by their refusal of emergency treatment if my dog ever needed it,” she wrote on True Local, while also admitting she had told them she’d be taking her business elsewhere.

“(I’d) always been a good customer and paid my bills at the time of treatment. This parting letter seemed pretty petty and unnecessary.”

In another review on the business directory website, she described Mr O'Grady as "grumpy” and someone “who should not be dealing with people or animals”.

“Her justification for describing Mr O’Grady as a grumpy person who should not be dealing with people or animals … essentially came down to him not saying ‘hello’ to her,” District Court Judge Suzanne Sheridan said in her judgment on Thursday.

In some posts, Ms Curtis claimed the mark-up was “400 per cent” and in others, 350 per cent.

“Ms Curtis complained about the mark-up and asserted in two of the publications that she was grossly overcharged, but in her cross examination admitted that the mark-up is dependent on what is included and that she ‘can’t make a judgment on what is reasonable and what is not’,” the judge said.

“In the end, where there is a conflict between the evidence of Ms Curtis, and others … I prefer the evidence of the others and I am not inclined to accept any of the evidence of Ms Curtis at face value.”

 

Brisbane vet Allen O’Grady. Picture: Josh Woning/AAP

Brisbane vet Allen O’Grady. Picture: Josh Woning/AAPSource:News Corp Australia

The defamatory imputations in her posts included that the company grossly overcharges its clients, takes advantage of them, and engages in unfair and unreasonable business practices.

Others were that Mr O’Grady was petty, uncaring and “not a nice person”.

Ms Curtis admitted to publishing the comments and the majority of the imputations conveyed within her online posts but denied that any of them were defamatory.

Judge Sheridan on Thursday ordered Ms Curtis pay Mr O’Grady and his businesses a total of $25,000 in damages, including aggravated damages, plus $4244.29 interest.

She said Ms Curtis had “persisted in pursuing the (failed) defence of justification and maintained at trial that the company and Mr O’Grady had overcharged and had engaged in unfair business practices”.

The judge described Ms Curtis’ apology as being at best “an apology for harm caused, not for the making of the statements”.

She said she was satisfied the proven imputations alleged are defamatory “in that they would have a tendency to lower the reputations of the company and Mr O’Grady in the eyes of the ordinary reasonable reader”.

Ms Curtis is “permanently restrained” from the future publication of comments or “words to the like effect” that she made in her seven defamatory posts.

Edited by Boronia
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I'm glad she didn't get anywhere. That vet may not have been a cheery 'people' person. I have known one good vet like that ..grumpy and very 'short' with clients, but a terrific vet. He had a huge clientele..people knew how good he was. 

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tdierikx   

Good on the vet for pursuing the matter... too many hunker down and try to ride out the storm from disgruntled customers with a chip on their shoulder...

 

T.

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asal   

one of my favourite vets has no bedside manner, but when Percy Sykes asked me why hasn't he seen me in ages after I moved and said, too far away now.  Asked me who is my new vet, when I named him Percy referred to him as "the best one that got away," after he left working for him. says volumes eh.

 

Edited by asal
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j   

I'd be pretty chuffed to get a bill like that for emergency treatment, particularly when it involved sedation as well.  Not much choice here in Canberra for emergency treatment.

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asal   
On 30/06/2020 at 10:51 AM, persephone said:

I'm glad she didn't get anywhere. That vet may not have been a cheery 'people' person. I have known one good vet like that ..grumpy and very 'short' with clients, but a terrific vet. He had a huge clientele..people knew how good he was. 

LOL

The grumpy winner would have to be one of my favourite vets, Prof Dave Hutchins. Head of cobbity branch of Sydney Uni.

One of a kind our Hutch .

Gave the pollies short shift when he locked  us down when Equine Influenza arrived here in a shuttle stallion

Edited by asal
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On 05/07/2020 at 6:18 PM, j said:

....  Not much choice here in Canberra for emergency treatment.

Especially since Jan Spate was crucified by the system.  Systematically.  She was the best vet I ever knew, definitely my hero.

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tdierikx   

Answered a call at my work placement clinic the other day... a gentleman wanting to switch vets because he wasn't happy with how he felt he and his terminally ill dog were being treated at his current clinic. I was super polite, and passed him on to our clinic manager...

 

Turns out that his dog really needs to go to the Bridge, but he can't bear the thought. The dog is on fluids and all sorts of medications to try to keep it comfortable, and the owner wants to come and sit with it for hours on end in the clinic... which is traumatic for all involved, not to mention having to move the poor dog back and forth from it's hospital cage to a consult room whenever the owner decides to drop in and sit with it. The dog is too ill to be sent home... it will pass away without all of the supportive care...

 

The owner wants to switch vets because the current treating vets keep hinting that his little mate needs to go to heaven.

 

Sometimes keeping human clients happy might not be the best thing for their little mates... *sigh*

 

T.

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That's difficult - too easy from a distance to say his vet should have done some straightforward talking, not just hinting. 

@tdierikx I won't put any links re Jan Spate - but google picks up most of the newspaper articles - and maybe some for and against arguments.  Of course with my closed mind I only accept the for.  How bloody dare they, but they did. 

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tdierikx   

I remember about Jan Spate... they treated her so badly...

 

T.

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My favourite, long term vet is European and very abrupt. She has gone far above and beyond for me many, many times but she is just very to the point about what is wrong and what needs to be done. Not into any chitty chat or long explanations. She's an amazing vet who loves animals but she is not for everyone. I like her because I like a truthful and knowledgeable vet who also offers/chooses some homeopathic options. She also says what she says she is going to do and follows through and she remembers your pets and what's going on with them. That's all as important to me as it is having a good GP for me.

 

It's bad that one disgruntled client can result in all this though. No winners here really as it wont have changed Ms Curtis's opinion and that's a long time for Dr O'Grady to find justice. I have to admit if I had a complaint (that I thought was legitimate, whether it was or not) I'd be miffed to get a letter saying I was no longer welcome at the practise at all. Their right to refuse service of course but it makes me wonder how unpleasant she was truly being when she first complained? So many people think the customer should always be right but you really do need to draw the line at some point.

Edited by Little Gifts
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tdierikx   

Most people don't see the high costs involved in running a vet clinic... and there is no Medicare for animals, so the costs can be seen to be high. In reality, the costs are less than what human doctors charge for similar procedures and medications... but without Medicare or PBS, the client has to pay the full price.

 

Not many vets are well off... the profits they get from any markups usually go straight back into business/equipment costs and wages for all staff employed at the clinic...

 

T.

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