Leroy Jones' fight ... “Mek me get di likkle money before me dead sah,” man pleads to Justice Minister
LEROY JONES has to wait for someone to help him out of bed every morning.
The 66-year-old who, according to the court, is 85 per cent disabled is then tidied, assisted into his wheelchair along with his catheter, before he is wheeled to the verandah of his nicely kept home in the seaside community of Rocky Point, in Clarendon.
"Me come out come look," Jones said with tears in his eyes.
This has become a familiar routine for the father of 10 since a life-changing incident seven years ago that has robbed him of the simple pleasures he enjoyed.
"Me use to go watch dem bwoy play football ... me use to go look fi me fren dem, me can't go again," he continued, wiping away the tears. "Me can't do nutten fi miself; that is the worst part," he said.
Jones' life was forever changed on the night of May 26, 2008 as he made his way home from his job at the New Yarmouth Sugar Factory on his bicycle.
Forced off the road
He said a speeding motorcar forced him to quickly manoeuvre the bicycle to the sidewalk of the main road leading from the factory.
"Him [the driver of the car] tek the corner bad so me gi him the road. Then me only find me self stuck," the elderly man recalled.
"Then me realise say a inna one hole me deh. So me a try fi come out and find miself can't move," he said.
More than an hour later, Jones, who was 59-years-old at the time, was removed from the hole with eight teeth missing and countless injuries all over his body.
Court documents included in a claim of negligence he filed against the State showed that the hole was dug up by a company that was doing work on behalf of the Government in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan.
The medical reports, of three doctors who examined him, concluded that he had lost all movement in his lower limbs and suffers from incontinence of urine and stool, hypertension, neurological deficits as well as loss or restricted sexual function.
Attorney-at-law Carlene McFarlane, who represented Jones, said initially the Government contested the claim, arguing that the former sugar factory worker was to be blamed for the accident.
But in an interview with The Gleaner, McFarlane indicated - as she did in court - that the hole was left unattended with no covering, no light and no warning signs.
According to her, lawyers for the State later backtracked and in March this year the Supreme Court awarded Jones damages totalling more than $25 million.
A breakdown of the award shows that the elderly man is to receive $21.7 million with three per cent interest from the date his claim was filed to the date of the ruling and special damages of $3.3 million - including $1.3 million for loss of income - with three per cent interest from the date of the incident.
Collecting the award may be another challenge for Jones.
'First come first serve'
Justice Minister Mark Golding told The Gleaner that the Government has set aside $350 million in this year's budget to pay awards handed down by the courts.
This is 56 per cent more than the $224 million that was budgeted last year, and Golding said this was part of an attempt by the Government to bring the payment of court awards "as near to current as we can".
The challenge for Jones, however, is that the payment of awards by the Government is done on a 'first come first serve' basis.
"Sometimes if there is a particularly needy situation, that is exceptional, we may try and accommodate that, but the general principle is that we pay out to those who have been
waiting longer first," the justice minister explained.
He noted, however, that the list of persons waiting to be paid has been reduced in recent months.
Jones acknowledged that the $25 million he has been awarded provided some measure of relief, and had a simple message for the justice minister.
"Mek me get di likkle money before me dead sah," he said.
The former tailor said the money would help him to continue his treatment, purchase medication and pay someone to care for him.
Asked what he missed the most, the man who rode his bicycle 15 miles to and from his job at New Yarmouth for several years responded quickly.
"Me happiness. Me just sid dung every day can't do nutten ... . Right now cramp a kill me," Jones said.