ERHA to pay $100,000 compensation to woman burned in surgery
The Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA) has been ordered to pay almost $100,000 in compensation to a 34-year-old woman, who suffered minor burns after the surgical drapes in the operating theatre at the Sangre Grande General Hospital caught fire during her caesarean section procedure in 2016.
Clarisia James, of Valencia, brought the medical negligence lawsuit against the ERHA in March 2020.
While ERHA did not dispute that the burning incident occurred, it challenged the severity of the injuries and the quantum in compensation sought by James.
James, who claimed that she suffered psychological trauma, was initially seeking damages for loss of future marital prospects as well as aggravated and exemplary damages but had to limit her claims as she provided no particulars of the injuries she sustained.
High Court Master Martha Alexander assessed the compensation owed to James in a 16-page decision delivered yesterday.
Master Alexander noted that the lack of evidence on the residual scarring could be due to it not being as severe and ghastly as initially claimed.
“However, I do not accept counsel for the defendant’s submission that the absence of evidence as to scarring meant that there were no lasting effects of the burns,” she said.
While Master Alexander described the incident as unfortunate and shocking, she stated that the unchallenged evidence was that despite the burns, the operation was successfully completed. She also noted that she declined counselling and other assistance offered by the ERHA.
“This evidence must be read negatively against her, and it was inferred that she was managing any lingering pain and loss that flowed from the incident,” she said.
“The court accepted, further, that the scarring would not have restricted her movements or severely handicapped her ability to lead a normal life, especially when appropriately attired,” she added.
Master Alexander ordered $85,000 in general damages and ordered the ERHA to pay interest at 2.5 per cent per annum from November 2020.
The ERHA was also ordered to pay the $12,000 in legal costs she incurred in pursuing the case.
According to the evidence in the case, the incident occurred on March 16, 2016.
James claimed that before the procedure, an extremely large amount of rubbing alcohol was applied to her abdominal area.
James, who was under anaesthesia, claimed that she did not feel any pain before and after the minor fire and only realised the extent of her burns while she was recovering at the hospital the following day.
James claimed that she suffered burns to 7 per cent of her body and suffered extreme pain and anguish as she had to contend with the burns and the pain from the operation while still taking care of her newborn.
James was represented by Martin George and Sarah Lawrence, while Ravindra Nanga represented the ERHA.
By: Derek Achong