Court awards mom $.1m for burns
A 34-year-old Valencia mother whose upper body was partially burnt by flames at the Sangre Grande Hospital six years ago while she was delivering her baby has been awarded approximately $100,000 by the High Court.
The judgment was delivered by High Court Master Martha Alexander yesterday.
“In the view of this court, the entire burning incident was an unfortunate incident. That a patient under the charge of a team of doctors could have sustained burns during the procedure was shocking to say the least,” she said.
Clarisia James and her attorneys Martin George and Company had filed a High Court action against the Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA), which manages the hospital, and the ERHA was found to be negligent in the matter.
The matter was sent to the High Court master for assessment of damages.
During the hearing, James gave evidence that on March 16, 2016, she was being prepared for a Caesarian Section in the operating theatre at the hospital when the incident occurred.
The expectant mother was administered spinal anaesthesia (otherwise known as a spinal block) in preparation for the surgical procedure.
She said while at the operating theatre, too much rubbing alcohol was applied to her abdominal region in preparation for surgery.
She said she heard the nurses commenting on this at the start of the procedure.
An instrument used by the medical team performing the surgical procedure sparked, setting ablaze the drapery that were creating the sterile field in the operating theatre.
The fire burned the front of the surgical first assistant’s gown and parts of the expectant mother’s upper body.
James suffered burns to the left side of her stomach, on her left chest below her breast, to the lower abdomen and on her left lateral thigh.
In her witness statement, James said initially she did not feel any pain from the burn on her skin. She stated that as the anaesthesia gradually wore off, she began experiencing searing pain radiating outwards in what she described as, “pulsing waves of tortuous pain and anguish.”
She added that when she first saw the burn site it caused her mental anguish and torment.
She said dressing of the burn wounds, which was “weeping pus and oozing constantly”, was painful and breastfeeding was also a challenge and painful.
In her High Court claim filed on March 10, 2020 by her attorneys Martin George and Company, James sought compensation for general and special damages, loss of future marital prospects as well as aggravated and exemplary damages. She also claimed that she had suffered a major depressive disorder, suicidal thoughts, tremendous loss of confidence and low self-esteem consequent on her injuries.
The ERHA called four witnesses: Dr Dale Hassranah, Dr Kristy Mendes and Dr Rhonette Spalding, who were all treating doctors; as well as Dr Adesh Sirjusingh, Medical Chief of Staff/Administrator of Clinical Services, Sangre Grande, who met James in that capacity after the incident. ERHA doctors gave evidence that the burns were minor, and not major or severe as James claimed, and that by 2016 they were healing well.
Alexander posited, however, that the burn injury, though described “minor”, occupied a large spread of the left side of James’ body.
Alexander ordered the ERHA to pay James general damages in the sum of $85,000, with interest at the rate of 2.5 per cent per annum from November 3, 2020 to February 7, 2022; and costs on the prescribed basis in the sum of $12,922.77.
The ERHA was represented by Ravindra Nanga and Charles Law.
BY: Leah Sorias