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Gov't fights $8m HIV error award

BY PAUL HENRY Crime/Court Desk co-ordinator henryp@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, June 10, 2014    

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THE Government is now fighting an award of $8 million in general damages to a woman whose world was turned upside down after being misdiagnosed while pregnant, in 2005, with having HIV.

The Government had accepted liability after Karen Reid sued and the case went to assessment of damages where the $8-million was awarded to the 28-year-old woman who is still in need of psychiatric care to help get her over the trauma associated with the diagnosis which she lived with for two years before it was corrected.

Now, the Government is contending that the award, made in the Supreme Court by Acting Justice Audre Lindo on April 14, is too high.

"The learned judge erred in making the award of general damages as the amount is so extremely high as to be an erroneous estimate of the damages to which the claimant is entitled," the attorney general noted in an appeal filed subsequently.

Added the document: "The learned judge erred in making the award for general damages as the medical evidence did not substantiate injuries of such severity as to attract such a high award of general damages."

But yesterday, when the Jamaica Observer contacted Reid, she said the award could not be enough to compensate for her suffering.

"The $8.5 million can't be too much," she said." I suffered for eight years. My child got damaged and they don't pay attention to it. So how that fi be too much for my suffering and my pain and my loss?"

Reid said she's trying to get proof that the medication that she was prescribed after her diagnosis caused her son to be blind in an eye, but that it has been a task getting a doctor to make the connection.

"After eight years? After eight years of my damage and my stress? This Government ah stress mi out. "After all the shame I felt... the Government a tell me that's too much?" Reid lamented.

Reid was first diagnosed at the Harbour View Health Centre in East St Andrew. She wasn't able to breastfeed her baby, had to give birth by Caesarean section and, on top of all that, the father of the child, who had tested negative for the virus, walked out on her after denying paternity of the child.

She had to undergo extensive counselling as she developed post-traumatic stress disorder resulting for her ordeal.

Reid was correctly diagnosed two years later, in May 2007, at another medical facility after informing a doctor there that she had not been experiencing any of the symptoms associated with being HIV-positive.

In 2009, Reid sued the Government and was, in April, awarded $8.5 million in general damages, $285,000 for corrective surgery to her abdomen as a result of the Caesarean section, and $200,000 for future psychiatric expenses. She was also awarded $44,000 for special damages. Interest was awarded on the $8.5 and $44,000 at three per cent per annum from 2009 to date of payment.

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