Davlin Thomas, Head of the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) has been awarded a little over one million dollars after he was defamed by a social media user.
Justice Margaret Mohammed yesterday directed that the user, Naresh Siewah, pay to Thomas general damages inclusive of aggravated damages in the sum of $.8 million plus interest as well as $.1 million in exemplary damages. In addition, Siewah was ordered to bear Thomas’s legal fees in the sum of $101,500—a grand total of $1,001,500.
Thomas was seeking $1.2 million.
The order was made after the judge said she found that Siewah deliberately intended to lower Thomas’s reputation in the eyes of the public when he posted 14 statements on Facebook between March 25, 2020, and June 9, 2020.
The posts were published on Siewah’s personal Facebook page as well as the group Facebook pages of “TrinbagoLivesMatter” and “THE VOICE OF TnT 99%”.
The judge said in her view, based on the way the statements were worded, “it was reasonable that right thinking members of society would have formed the view that the claimant was corrupt, mismanaged public funds and misappropriated public funds for his personal use”.
They would have also formed the view that Thomas was not fit to hold public office, defrauded the State for his personal benefit and is an incompetent CEO of the NCRHA, who favoured certain “PNM contractors”, the judge said.
While Justice Mohammed said some of the questions asked by Siewah were, in fact, in the public’s interest, the insertion of certain unnecessary words in the posts was a personal attack on Thomas.
Instead of taking to social media, Justice Mohammed said Siewah could have simply raised his concerns directly with Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh, the board of the NCRHA and Thomas himself.