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Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell

The Tobago Hospitality and Tourism Institute has been ordered to pay almost $90,000 in compensation to a former employee, who was left seriously injured after falling from a defective chair.

High Court Judge Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell ordered the compensation for Petlyn Edwards as she upheld a negligence claim against her employer on Wednesday.

According to the evidence in the case, the incident occurred on September 11, 2014, as Edwards sat on a four-wheel swivel chair.

In assessing whether the institute should be held liable, Donaldson-Honeywell dismissed its claim that Edwards contributed to her injury as she chose to sit on the chair despite knowing that it was faulty.

Donaldson-Honeywell noted that Edwards had reported the issues with the furniture in the office previously.

“Her evidence that her supervisor was directed by the CEO to move the chairs but did not, is uncontroverted. It would not be practical to expect a worker to remain standing, so sitting on a chair may per se be negligent,” Donaldson-Honeywell said.

In assessing the loss of earnings compensation for Edwards, Donaldson-Honeywell noted that when she was assessed by District Medical Officer (DMO) between January and July 2016, she was deemed 60 per cent disabled with a permanence of six months.

She also stated that the institute claimed that they discontinued Edwards’s salary in 2015 due to her unwillingness to provide medicals to justify her sick leave beyond the six month period. Another medical report from January 2017, stated that Edwards’ alleged continuing pain and discomfort was not supported by medical evidence.

Donaldson-Honeywell eventually decided to award her $29,600, which represented one-third of her monthly salary during the two -year period between when she was terminated and the last medical report.

She also dismissed Edwards’ claim for aggravated damages over the institute’s alleged “callous” attitude towards her after her injury.

“Under cross-examination, she appeared more affronted by the institute’s actions in terminating her employment than humiliated or distressed by her treatment on the day of the injury,” Donaldson-Honeywell said.

However, Donaldson-Honeywell did order an additional $60,000 in general damages for her injury and ordered the institute to pay the $25,000 in legal costs she incurred for pursuing the lawsuit.

Donaldson-Honeywell’s judgment in the case comes months after a retired training instructor at MIC Institute of Technology was awarded $180,000 in compensation for a similar incident in 2013.

Edwards was represented by Kelvin Ramkissoon, Nizam Saladeen and Sonya Gyan while Kimba Anderson and Lesley Gray represented the institute.