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The State has been ordered to pay $32,000 in compensation to a former prisoner, who suffered burns after slipping and falling on a wet floor while lifting a large pot of tea with a fellow inmate. High Court Judge Frank Seepersad ordered the compensation for Michael Pemberton after partially upholding his negligence lawsuit against the State at the end of a short virtual trial, yesterday morning. While Seepersad ruled that Pemberton was entitled to $40,000 in compensation, he ruled that the State was only liable to pay 80 percent as Pemberton contributed to the negligence by failing to complain that the floor was wet and slippery before agreeing to perform the task.”The Claimant had a responsibility as well to protect himself and to not willfully assume a risk,” Seepersad said. According to the evidence in the case, the accident occurred on March 15, 2019, while Pemberton was serving a sentence of 30 months in prison with hard labour at the Port-of-Spain State Prison.Pemberton and another inmate were tasked with moving a large pot of garlic tea, which was to be served to fellow prisoners as part of their morning rations. The duo was moving the pot through the dishwashing section of the ration room, when he slipped he fell. The tea spilled on both prisoners with Pemberton suffering burns to his hands and feet. Testifying from his lawyer’s office, yesterday morning, Pemberton claimed that there were no signs indicating that the floor was wet. He also claimed that he and the other prisoners, who were assigned to work in the ration room and prepare meals, were not issued with any personal protective equipment. Two prison officers, who were assigned to the prison at time of the incident, testified on behalf of the State. Prison officer Clint Telesford claimed that the ration room had personal protective equipment such as aprons and gloves and prisoners working there were given a pair of shoes to work in if they did not have one of their own.Telesford could not say whether Pemberton was wearing rubber slippers at the time of the incident, but claimed that if he or his colleagues had noticed they would have instructed him to put on shoes. “Everyone was supposed to know what they were supposed to do and what they were supposed to wear,” Telesford said. He also could not confirm whether Pemberton and the other prisoners were taught the proper way to lift and transport hot pots but suggested that it was probably done by a more senior officer. In his judgement, Seepersad noted that the court was not provided with records to prove that Pemberton was issued a pair of shoes as suggested. While he ruled that Pemberton should have raised an alarm if he was not properly trained and outfitted as claimed, Seepersad noted that the State had a duty to provide a safe environment. “It must be understood that incarceration does not strip prisoners of their fundamental rights nor does it remove from the State the obligation to keep prisoners safe,” Seepersad said.”Where prisoners are to engage in tasks or chores, the State must ensure there is in place a safe system of work,” he added. Pemberton was represented by Joseph Sookoo and Abigail Roach, while Tinuke Gibbons-Glenn and Justay Guerra represented the State.