A former employee of the cash-strapped Transport Board has won a large monetary judgment against the company more than 16 years after being injured on the job.
Wendy Newton, who was three months pregnant when she fell from her chair and hurt her back on May 14, 1997 while on the job, was awarded $352,666 in damages by the Barbados High Court on Monday, a figure likely to be higher when interest is calculated.
The former customs and purchasing clerk sued the state agency and had judgment on liability made in her favour on December 6, 2002 and has been waiting since then for an assessment on damages, which has now come.
High Court Judge Jacqueline Cornelius determined that Newton, who gave evidence stating her injury negatively affected her health, work, social life and marriage, should be awarded general and special damages.
Under general damages the middle-aged woman will receive $90,000 (pain, suffering and loss of amenities), $36,036 (disadvantage in labour market), $52,200 (future domestic services), $60,000 (future medical care).
This was in addition to special damages of $5,190 (past medical expenses), $76,240 (past domestic services), $33,000 (past loss of earnings).
Court documents specified that the special damages “shall bear interest at a rate of four per cent per annum from the date of the issue of the writ until today and eight per cent per annum thereafter until payment”, and general damages “shall bear interest at a rate of six per cent from today until payment”.
Additionally, Newton was awarded costs “certified fit for two attorneys-at-law to be taxed if not agreed”, Cornelius decided.
Newton was represented by Sir Richard Cheltenham Q.C. and Alrick Scott, while Leslie Haynes Q.C. and Leslie Roberts represented the Transport Board.
The evidence stated that the mother of three was in the office at work and “sat in a chair which broke and collapsed under her”.
“She fell and was seriously injured. She claims that her injuries loss and damage were caused by negligence on the part of the defendant, its servants and or agents,” court documents stated.
“The plaintiff gave evidence that she went through a bad period after the accident. She suffered from depression after the accident and recently she experienced more pain and was moving slower and dragging.”
Newton’s case also included medical reports from several doctors, including practitioner in pain management, Dr. Cyril Nelson, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jerome Jones, neurosurgeon Dr. John Gill surgeon.
One of the key aspects of the case was the merits of medical evidence showing Newton “had a pre-existing degenerative condition of the spine prior to the accident”.
In her statement on determining the damages to be paid, Cornelius said the court “accepts that the plaintiff’s injury was caused when the chair back fell off the chair, she fell and hit her back on the wall, which is plaintiff’s version of how the accident occurred”.
She also noted that the “real issue” involved was “whether (Newton) had a pre-existing degenerative complaint and what would be the nature of any acceleration to a symptomatic point”.
“Not withstanding the existence of a degenerative condition, the court is satisfied that the chronic back pain which (Newton) now suffers from is directly attributable to the fall which she sustained during the course of her employment. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, the court accepts the evidence of (Newton) supported by the medical reports,” the judge said.
“The court is satisfied that (Newton) has seen a number of medical practitioners over the years and her painful symptoms have not been resolved and continue to date. (Newton) said in her evidence that she will have to live with it. Although she has been treated with anti-inflammatory analgesics, hot packs, algypan, injections and physiotherapy, her symptoms have only ever partially subsided.
“(Newton) is now the sole breadwinner for her family and indicated in her evidence that she had no choice but to continue working given that she had a son who was 11 years old. Some weight has also been given to the fact that her marriage broke down under the strain of the injury and disability.” (SC)
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