Judge denies man $40m for pole fall
Barbara Gayle, Justice Coordinator
A man who was seeking $40 million in damages against Powtronics Electrical Integrated Technology Ltd for injuries he suffered while installing power lines days after Hurricane Ivan in 2004 received an award of only $2.5 million because he exaggerated the injuries he received.
Ricardo Wilkins, a 43-year-old string pole erector, fell from a pole on the Port Royal main road in the Corporate Area on September 15, 2004. He claimed that as a result of the fall, he was now suffering from epilepsy and was at risk for Alzheimer's disease.
He claimed the defendant was negligent because the pole was not firmly secured.
Wilkins, who was represented by attorneys-at-law Ainsworth Campbell and Andrew Campbell, listed 26 injuries he received as a result of the fall. He said because of the injury, he often had suicidal thoughts and had become cruel and emotionally unstable, was flogging his children, and beating and fighting with his wife.
This was supported by evidence from his wife that "prior to September 2004, Ricardo was good and well-behaved, but since then, he has become a danger to himself, his children, and me".
The defendant had accepted liability. During the hearing of the assessment of damages, Patrick Foster, QC, and attorney-at-law Ayana Thomas, who represented the defendant, said they discovered that Wilkins had suffered head injuries in 1997, resulting in the development of epilepsy.
It was also discovered by the lawyers that in 2004, he also suffered serious injuries, including a fracture to the skull. The lawyers argued that Wilkins was linking those injuries to the incident in 2004.
The lawyers produced medical records and court documents to substantiate the defendant's claim that Wilkins' injury in 2004 was not as serious as he was contending.
Foster, in his submissions, pointed out that Wilkins was unreliable because he had not been truthful about his medical history to the doctors who examined and assessed him. The attorney further said that Wilkins exaggerated the injuries he received in 2004.
Justice David Fraser, in assessing damages, had to identify the injuries that were related to the 2004 incident. The judge found that Wilkins suffered injuries to the anterior chest, neck, and chin from the fall in 2004, and those injuries had nothing to do with Wilkins suffering from epilepsy.
The judge said Wilkins and his counsel would have been aware of the 1997 injuries, which resulted in a civil suit that Wilkins filed in 1998, stating he obtained a skull fracture from that fall.
The judge pointed out that the 1997 injuries mirrored closely some of the injuries Wilkins said he suffered 1n 2004.
When Wilkins was called to give evidence in the Supreme Court, the judge said "he was haltingly dragging a bag of tools".
The judge said it was only when he asked how the tools could assist in the quantum of damages that the dramatic play was abandoned.
The judge pointed out that when other witnesses were giving evidence, Wilkins, who was wearing a collar, sat "prominently in the face of the court, two pill containers in his outstretched hand, trying his best, in the face of the court, to look like death warmed over".