Mon | Jul 15, 2019

$7m fall - Teacher awarded damages for injury in chair collapse

Published:Monday | January 14, 2019 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Staff Reporter


A teacher who suffered severe injuries to her neck, shoulder, and upper back after a chair collapsed with her during a class at Bellefield High School in Manchester has been awarded close to $7 million in damages.

The Supreme Court has ordered that the Government pay Tamara Forester Richards $5.5 million in general damages and $637,669 in special damages.

Both sums will attract interest at a rate of three per cent per annum from around the time of the 2012 incident and December last year when the orders were made in a lawsuit Forester Richards filed against the Bellefield High School Board of Management and the Ministry of Education.

Forester Richards, in a statement filed in support of her lawsuit, recounted details of the incident, which happened while she was teaching a class, and the chronic pain she has had to cope with since.

She said that on March 12, 2012, she was conducting a physical education class in the library because it was raining.

"While conducting the class, the chair I was sitting on broke and collapsed, causing me to fall suddenly to the ground," the then 38-year-old teacher revealed.

"I fell directly on my buttocks. I was on the ground for a couple seconds. I was in shock. I turned over on my knees and held on to the table and got up," she recounted in the statement, a copy of which was obtained by The Gleaner.

Lawyers for the Government filed a defence that was limited to the damages Forester Richards asked the court to award.

"It is neither admitted nor denied that as a result of the said incident, the claimant has sustained severe injuries as the defendants [the Bellefield High Board of Management and the Education Ministry] do not know whether the allegations stated therein are true," government lawyers said in their response to the particulars of claim in her lawsuit.

However, a medical report prepared by one of the doctors who treated Forester Richards revealed that she was diagnosed with chronic myofascial pain to the neck, shoulders, and upper back.

While noting that the prognosis for chronic myofascial pain is "usually very good" with appropriate treatment, Dr Everton McIntosh revealed in his report that Forester Richards "has not shown any significant improvement after two years of treatment".

Said McIntosh: "The exact reason for this has not been identified. It could be as a result of aggravating and perpetuating factors in her home and work environment."

He continued: "Also, the pain problem has been going on for more than two years, so there is the possibility that significant adverse changes may have developed in the affected muscles and in the central nervous system, which may militate against further improvement."

Added McIntosh: "So her pain at this time appears to me intractable, and her prognosis for full resolution is regarded as poor."