The South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) has been ordered to pay a little over $1.6 million in compensation to the mother of a welder, who died of complications related to a “flesh-eating bacteria” after being twice misdiagnosed at the Princes Town District Health Facility in 2014.
High Court Judge Avason Quinlan-Williams found the SWRHA and by extension its staff negligent in Navin Singh’s death in February, but only assessed the compensation to be paid to his mother Bhagwantee Singh-Weekes, last Friday.
Quinlan-Williams awarded her $35,000 for the pain and suffering her son endured for five days while doctors failed to diagnose his Necrotising Fasciitis (NF).
“The expert opinion and medical literature acknowledges that NF is a painful and excruciating flesh-eating disease. The infection has a rapid onset and presents with a disproportionate amount of pain compared to the person’s physical appearance,” Quinlan-Williams said.
The majority of the compensation awarded to Singh’s mother, approximately $1.5 million, came from Quinlan-Williams assessment of the damages for his lost of earnings because of his death.
She made the calculation by taking Singh’s annual salary less taxes, living expenses and five percent for contingencies such a public holidays and sick days as Singh was a skilled tradesman, and used a multiplier of 13.
Quinlan-Williams noted that the multiplier would have been higher but she considered that the company Singh worked with, was heavily reliant on contracts from Petrotrin, which was closed down and restructured after the 30-year-old’s death.
She also considered the country’s current economic climate caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“The court is conscious, however, that the medical expert along with the medical literature suggested the rates for loss of limb in patients suffering from NF are quite high, at about 50 per cent of surviving cases of NF,” she said, as she noted that his employment prospects would no doubt be affected.
Quinlan-Williams also rejected Singh’s mother claim for additional damages as an alleged dependent of him.
She noted that while Singh-Weekes claimed that he would give her $5,500 monthly for her to support herself, she provided no evidence to buttress her claim.
“The Claimant was also the deceased’s legal personal representative, as such bank statements and other financial records were documents which was within the control and ought to be adduced as part of her evidence to prove her claim for special damages,” she said.
While Quinlan-Williams acknowledged that Singh-Weekes suffered additional pain and suffering as a doctor had callously told her that her son was “destined to die,” she stated that the incident did not warrant any additional compensation.
As part of her decision, Quinlan-Williams also ordered the State to pay the $54,000 Singh’s family incurred in funeral expenses and almost $150,000 in legal costs.
According to the evidence in the case, in October 2014, Singh, of Gajadhar Lands, Princes Town, went to the facility and complained that he was suffering from severe pain in his right knee and vomiting.
Singh was diagnosed with sciatica (pain in the sciatic nerve) and was prescribed Tramadol, Gravol, and Zantac.
His condition deteriorated and he was unable to walk or move.
He was taken back to the facility, where another doctor made the same diagnosis and recommended that he continue using the same medication previously prescribed.
Two days later, he was rushed to the San Fernando General Hospital, where doctors made the correct diagnosis.
He succumbed the following day.
Speaking to Guardian Media when Quinlan-Williams upheld her case, earlier this year, Singh-Weekes said her family was relieved as they had put their lives on hold for five years to fight the legal battle.
“Honestly every day you get up and you have to try to live with this on your mind,” she said, as she noted that her son was engaged and due to be married months after his eventual death.
Singh-Weekes was represented by Anand Ramlogan, SC, Jared Jagroo, Che Dindial.
The SWRHA was represented by Vijai Deonarine and Krystal Kawal.