Somerville Landlord, Orthodontist Sues Tufts Student Newspaper For Libel

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SOMERVILLE, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — In early March, a Somerville landlord and orthodontist filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts Superior Court against student staff at Tufts University's independent newspaper, The Tufts Daily.

The lawsuit, filed on March 9, is against the Daily's editor in chief and deputy news editor for the paper's coverage on a protest that happened outside The Braces Place in February.

According to the lawsuit, Mouhab Rizkallah of Winchester develops and rents residential and commercial real estate under the name LaCourt Realty LLC and owns the orthodontic practice Braces Place in Somerville.

The protest on February 3, consisted of fifteen people that claimed to be members of the LaCourt Tenants Union, who allegedly held signs, chanted, and made speeches, the lawsuit said. According to the original article by Tufts Daily, the protestors held signs reading "Somervillian," and "LaCourt Lies," and were gathered in opposition to a lawsuit against former LaCourt tenant Alona Brosh. Rizkallah sued Brosh for $28,875 of "unpaid rent," after she signed an "intent to renew" letter, the tenants union said.

According to the article, the tenants union said that Brosh only signed the letter indicating her intention to renew, but that LaCourt claimed she is obligated to pay rent for a place where she no longer lives, and also has to pay the rent of her two former roommates.

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Following the article's publication, Rizkallah alleged that Tufts Daily printed it with several inaccuracies, and sued the editors for $50,000 on counts of defamation, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and invasion of privacy, the newspaper said.

Namely one of the facts the article missed, Rizkallah said, was that among the protestors outside Braces Places, he and his managers recognized one of the people as a tenant at a LaCourt property. The Tufts Daily printed that Rizkallah said there were no tenants present at the protest. Rizkallah claimed in the lawsuit that he asked the paper to correct said information, but that they did not.

"By falsely stating that Dr. Rizkallah said none of the protestors were his tenants, and by following that statement immediately with a quote from the LaCourt tenant Dr. Rizkallah acknowledged was present, Thompson deliberately and falsely suggested that Dr. Rizkallah was lying," the lawsuit read.

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