Trinidad: Lawsuit filed against Facebook user who named man a “bandit”

Trinidad: Lawsuit filed against Facebook user who named man a “bandit”
The post on social media
The post on social media

(TRINIDAD EXPRESS) — The Ministry of Health employee whose image was plastered over social media earlier this month and labelled as a “bandit”, has instructed his attorneys to issue a pre-action protocol letter to the woman who made the original post seeking a public apology and “significant” monetary compensation for defamation of character.

Should she fail to do so within the next seven days, then legal action will be instituted against her at the High Court in Port of Spain.

On Friday afternoon, attorneys Keith Scotland, Asha Watkins-Montserin, Keisha Kydd-Hannibal and Sarah Ramsingh, issued the letter to the woman, Sharon Meighoo-Gildharry on behalf of 39-year-old Vibert Small.

In early October, Meighoo-Gildharry posted a photograph of Small’s work identification card on her personal Facebook page, together with a caption that warned other Facebook users to be cautious since the Health Ministry had confirmed that Small was “a bandit pretending to spray for mosquitoes.”

That post was shared 4,900 times.

After the post was made, the Ministry of Health issued a release dispelling the accusation and stated that Small was a bona fide employee of the ministry’s Insect Vector Control Division.

In their letter, the attorneys questioned from where Meighoo-Gidharry received such false information that their client was a bandit.

They called upon her to explain.

“Was it something said by him directly and/or indirectly? Was it something he did and/or something he failed to do? Was it his appearance and/or gender and/or physiognomy? Was it his ethnicity?” the attorneys asked.

They explained that for the past 15 years, Small had been an employee of the ministry’s Insect Vector Control Division. In addition to that, he had a part-time job whereby he worked as a driver for Drop Taxi Service and was also the legal owner of a mobile car wash.

“Consequently, the intended claimant’s various jobs require a reputation of trustworthiness, good faith, honesty and integrity. A reputation that was untainted up until your actions,” the letter read.

The attorneys went on to say that following the allegations, Small had received numerous phone calls and queries from his clientele, employers, co-workers, friends and family requesting clarification on the implications of the post.

His nine-year-old son is also constantly bullied at school because of the false allegations.

Further to that, the attorneys said Drop Taxi Service placed Small on suspension with immediate effect following the post.

“Although Drop Taxi Service subsequently reactivated his account, thereby lifting the suspension, the intended claimant has suffered embarrassment and distress as a result as well as loss of income for the period of suspension.”

They said in light of the statement which Meighoo-Gildharry caused to be published, it had the effect of lowering Small’s reputation in the eyes of the right-thinking members of the public and that it logically flows that her actions have interfered with Small’s livelihood. Not just that, but the false allegations will continue to have far-reaching negative consequences on his career and future development.

“Further, the unmeritorious and unsubstantiated statement that was published seems to insinuate that the intended claimant was involved in criminal activity and he is a criminal. In these circumstances, we submit that this is a case that may involve unsupported and unbridled profiling and if we do go to court, we will be seeking aggravated and exemplary damages to vindicate his reputation,” the attorneys stated.

In all of the circumstances, they said their client, as a matter or urgency, was requesting:

i. An unqualified public retraction of the allegation and a public apology on terms to be agreed. The public apology is required to be released and placed on a World Wide Web and in a manner no less prominent than the allegations complained of;

ii. An undertaking that Meighoo-Gildharry does not repeat the said allegation or similar allegations;
The payment of a substantial sum in damages to Small to demonstrate the baselessness of the allegations and compensation to him for the injury to his reputation, financial loss and considerable distress that he has suffered; and

iii. The payment of Small’s legal cost.

iv. The attorneys warned that should Meighoo-Gildharry fail to obey any of the demands, all legal steps would be taken against her for the “recovery of monies for compensation together with legal costs, interest and any other relief that the Court may deem fit and just in the circumstances, without further notice to compel you so to do.”


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