Massive payout - Employers ordered to pay $400m to woman crippled by criminals’ bullet
A $400 million award by the courts is proving little comfort for 46-year-old Janet Edwards, who is adamant that the money will not compensate for her health and happiness.
According to Edwards, she had dreams and goals and most of all she wanted to be a wife, a mother, a businesswoman, and an all-round bag of fun, but that was taken from her when she was shot and injured by robbers at her workplace 17 years ago.
The single gunshot to her neck on that fateful day of April 27, 2000, has left her crippled from the neck down leaving her with pain, suffering, dependence, immobility, lack of privacy, and depression.
"What keeps me going is the lesson I have learnt from my earthly father who introduced me to God and explained to me that God made me and lives inside of me, and God is love and God's love never goes away," Edwards told The Sunday Gleaner.
"God is love and God's love is always with me," added Edwards, who now lives with her elderly parents and a brother in the United States. Her 80-year-old mother is her main caregiver.
Last week, Edwards received one of the highest Supreme Court awards in a negligence suit she filed against her former employer, Jamaica Beverages Ltd, a subsidiary of the Trinidadian firm S. M. Jaleel & Co Ltd.
Attorneys Maurice Manning and Arlene Williams of the law firm Nunes Scholefield DeLeon & Co, who represented Edwards at the assessment of damages, explained that the case was a very challenging one, but it was teamwork as they got tremendous assistance from other attorneys.
Edwards had sued her former employers for negligence and breach of contract and alleged that they failed to provide a safe system of work, failed to provide adequate security for workers' protection, and exposed her to dangers and risks that were reasonably foreseeable.
After the suit was filed in 2002, Edwards obtained a default judgment and attempts by the defendant to set aside the judgment were unsuccessful.
When the matter was set for assessment of damages, attorney-at-law Alexander Williams, who represented the company, had argued that Edwards was obliged to mitigate her loss and should not appropriately claim damages in respect of any loss or expense that would have been avoidable by reasonable steps.
Last week, Mr Justice Bertram Morrison awarded her J$8.4 million for loss of earnings, special damages of US$504,358 for hospital expenses, medication, and equipment, and US$167,000 for monthly daily living expenses.
Edwards was also awarded general damages for pain and suffering assessed at J$53 million, while future nursing care, medication and monthly expenses totalled US$2.4 million and future loss of earnings was assessed at J$4.3 million.
The judge granted the company a two-week stay of the award on condition that US$500,000 is paid to Edwards on or before May 29.
The company has, so far, paid US$470,000 in interim payments and the judge ordered that the amount should be deducted from the final payment.
Manning explained that the bulk of the award was in United States dollar because Edwards lives abroad.
He said very soon, Edwards' mother will not be able to take care of her, so she will need professional help.