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$5m for lost toes - State ordered to pay after toddler's digits amputated in health centre mishap

Published:Sunday | August 16, 2015 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett

Michael Passley was only 18 months old when, in July 2006, he was taken to the State-run Morant Bay Health Centre in St Thomas to be treated for a skin rash.

He was given a penicillin injection and, three months later, according to a civil suit filed against the State, doctors were forced to amputate four of his toes.

Mark Passley gave evidence that after the injection was administered, his son was unable to stand and the following day "his right foot turn black and blue and swell up".

The Government did not contest liability and last month the Supreme Court awarded the now 10-year-old child and his father more than $5 million in damages.

Acting Supreme Court judge, Justice Audre Lindo, in her ruling, awarded Michael $4.5 million with annual interest of three per cent from 2009 [the date the suit was filed] for pain and suffering and loss of amenities. He was also awarded $677,264 for future medical care and special damages of $75,000.




"I have considered the physical injury itself, the pain and suffering as well as the procedures the claimant [Michael] had to undergo at such a tender age, and the effect the injury has had and will continue to have on his capacity to enjoy life," Lindo said in explaining the award.

"I have also considered the fact that he has been assessed by Dr Grantel Dundas and found to have 13 per cent impairment of lower extremity or five per cent of the whole person," she continued.

Mark Passley, who claimed he was forced to take time off from his job as a labourer to travel to Kingston three times per week to visit his son at the Bustamante Hospital for Children, was awarded $16,800 for loss of earnings.

While conceding that he was not aware of the case, Attorney General Patrick Atkinson told The Gleaner yesterday that, generally, the decision whether to contest liability in civil cases was not a reflection on the conduct of agents of the State.

"Every case has to be decided on its own peculiar and particular merit. You look at the allegation, you talk to your witnesses, you look at your statements and you make an informed decision as to whether you contest it or not," Atkinson said.

"The thing is to make sure that we don't waste court time, we don't waste our time, we don't waste anybody's time in contesting cases that we shouldn't contest," he underscored.

Mark Passley claimed, in court documents, that when his son's right foot began swelling up a day after the penicillin was administered, he took him back to the Morant Bay Health Centre where he was seen by a doctor and later transferred to the Princess Margaret Hospital, also in St Thomas.

He said his son was then transferred to the Bustamante Hospital where he spent three months before undergoing surgery "to remove some of his toes".

According to his testimony, Michael was discharged from Bustamante Hospital and sent back to Princess Margaret Hospital, where another surgery was performed.

The award to Passley is the latest in a number of multimillion-dollar judgments the courts have ordered the Government to pay out in civil cases. In May, the State was ordered to pay west Kingston resident Latoya Brown $50 million in damages after she was shot by members of the security forces and lost sight in both eyes.

In March, Clarendon resident Leroy Jones was awarded just over $25 million in damages after the bicycle he was riding fell into a pothole in the parish.

Justice Minister Mark Golding has revealed that $350 million has been set aside 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".