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Former porter at Unilever awarded $1.4M damages

Thursday, December 19 2013

A FORMER national hockey player, who once worked as a porter at Unilever Caribbean Limited, was yesterday awarded about $1.4 million in damages stemming from a work-place accident in March, 2006.

Wayne Wills was at the company when, on March 6, 2006, while carrying out duties, he slipped, injuring himself. A company doctor gave him painkillers, but Wills’ pain never abated. He was deemed unfit for work and fired by the company since it could not find a suitable post for him within the organisation. Other medical officials later determined he had suffered a herniated L4/L5 disc and lumbar scoliosis, which is a degeneration of the spine. He was assessed as having a permanent partial disability of 25 per cent.

However, when damages were first assessed by Master Patricia Sobion in the High Court in 2007, the full extent of Wills injury had not yet been ascertained. He went through several surgeries and reported pain and problems even after an initial assessment of damages. The matter went to the Court of Appeal for a fresh assessment of damages, due to new medical evidence – not challenged by the company – relating to Wills’ condition. The Court found some assumptions made by the Master were not sound, in addition to degree of reliance she paid no evidence initially submitted to the court by Wills.

In a ruling yesterday, delivered by Justice of Appeal Nolan Bereaux, the court awarded general damages of $751,464.58 ($779,212.80 minus $27,748.22 being the workmen’s compensation awarded to the appellant); $200,000 for pain and suffering with interest at 12 per cent per annum from December 2007, to January 2009.

The court ordered special damages in the sum of $102,812.80; further special damages in respect of surgery and related medical expenses (including medication) including $88,233 with six per cent interest and $18,189.31 being money still due, and owing in respect of the surgery (no interest payable); loss of earnings of $22,560 for the period July 2009 to June 2009; future medical expenses of $30,000. This amounts to $1,213,260 plus at least $145,591 interest.

“The Master gave insufficient weight to the evidence by failing to take proper account of the evidence of Wills and his supporting witness, and thus applied too conservative a period to allow for Wills’ re-training,” Bereaux found. “In any event, Wills’ subsequent affidavit evidence before this court, as well as the fresh medical evidence, have falsified the assumptions on which the Master has proceeded in arriving at her decision.” Also on the panel were Justices of Appeal Paula Mae Weekes and Rajendra Narine. Wills was represented by a team including Richard Freeman.

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