Sun | Nov 19, 2017

Unfit for marriage - Court quashes union between mentally ill man and his caregiver

Published:Wednesday | August 16, 2017 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett

 

A High Court judge has quashed the three-year marriage between an elderly man with a history of mental disorders and the woman employed as his caregiver and ordered her to return close to $1 million in pension payments she collected.

According to a lawsuit filed in the Supreme Court, Andrew Reid Barnett, 60, was weak, his speech slurred, and he was experiencing "seizure-like activity" in January 2014 when his caregiver, Monica Stewart, took him from Portland to Upper Regent Street, in west Kingston, where they got married.

Justice Sonya Wint Blair, in her ruling, cited the reports of two doctors who examined Barnett, as well as his medical history, and concluded that from 2012, he suffered from, among other things, schizophrenia and hypertension.

"Andrew Reid Barnett did not have the mental capacity to enter into a marriage with the defendant (Stewart) on the 11th day of January 2014," Wint Blair declared.

"The first claimant (Barnett) did not have the mental capacity to treat with his own pension nor open a bank account," the judge added.

Documents included in the suit filed by Barnett's two children show that the wedding took place after Stewart, 56, collected a cheque for $814,000 representing pension payments owed to Barnett.

The cheque was lodged to a bank account bearing Barnett's and Stewart's name in July 2013 and court records show that by the end of August that year, "those funds had been depleted".

 

Money spent to complete house, buy food, clothes - wife

 

Stewart indicated, too, that some of the money was used to purchase food and clothes for her husband and insisted that in all cases he was either there or allowed her to spend his money in the way she did.

But according to Dr Peta-Gaye Reynolds, consultant psychiatrist based at the Annotto Bay Hospital at the time, Barnett was referred to the facility from as far back as June 2012 "with a history of hypertension and schizophrenia".

Reynolds gave evidence that one day after the wedding, the elderly man was admitted to the Annotto Bay Hospital with "slurred speech [and] weakness of a two-day duration. He was assessed as having a cerebrovascular accident," she said, using the medical term for a stroke.

The medical doctor said that during a mental status examination she conducted for two days, Barnett was "disoriented in time, person and place with impaired short- and long-term memory".

"He was only able to follow one-step commands and had impaired insight and judgement," she added.

Wint Blair noted that Stewart failed to counter the overwhelming medical evidence that was presented, before ordering that the marriage be declared null and void. "The registrar general shall cancel any certificate of marriage or other document registered in relation to the marriage," she ordered.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com