Ringside doctor John O’Neill has been awarded $385,000 in damages in a defamation case against the Sydney Morning Herald.
The court ruled he was defamed by a column written by Peter FitzSimons, which argued Anthony Mundine and Danny Green continued to fight in a boxing match supervised by O’Neill, despite one suffering “a bleeding brain.”
O’Neill who has been a ringside doctor for over thirty years sued Fairfax and Peter FitzSimons in the NSW supreme court over The Fitz Files columned, published in print and online on February 10 2017.
FitzSimon’s column referred to a punch by Mundine, which landed on Green’s head and caused him to stumble and briefly fall to the ground.
O’Neill examined Green who declared him fit to keep fighting after finding he wasn’t injured.
Days later, Green, after winning the match, had an MRI scan which found no significant difference from a scan he had two years prior.
Justice Lucy McCallum ruled the article, which used phrases such as “reckless ringside doctor”, “bleeding brain” and “risking his life”, defamed O’Neill and awarded the doctor $385K in damages.
McCallum ruled that a reader would easily infer from the article that O’Neill would have been “incompetent, negligent and reckless to allow the contest to continue”.
She declared the defamation “significant” and said O’Neill was entitled to “a substantial award of damages.”
O’Neill was awarded $350K in general damages and $35K in for aggravated damages due to the fact the doctor was not contacted for comment before the column was published the SMH did not issue an apology as requested.
Speaking to reporters outside the court, O’Neill said: “That was the whole principle behind this entire court case – it’s one’s good reputation.
Once that goes, you can’t get it back. And today, I got mine back.”