After forcibly committed to St Ann’s Hospital, woman compensation delayed

Monday, June 24, 2019 - 13:15

Cheryl Miller, the em­ploy­ee of the Min­istry of Gen­der, Youth and Child Af­fairs, who shot in­to the pub­lic lime­light af­ter she dragged from her of­fice and forcibly com­mit­ted to the St Ann’s Psy­chi­atric Hos­pi­tal in 2012, will have to wait a while longer be­fore she claims the al­most $850,000 in com­pen­sa­tion she re­ceived over the or­deal.

Al­though she was award­ed the com­pen­sa­tion at the end of her law­suit in 2015, Miller had agreed not to en­force it pend­ing the de­ter­mi­na­tion of an ap­peal from the North West Re­gion­al Health Au­thor­i­ty (NWRHA), which op­er­ates the State-run men­tal health in­sti­tu­tion.

How­ev­er, when the ap­peal came up for hear­ing be­fore Ap­pel­late Judges Al­lan Men­don­ca, Nolan Bereaux and Pe­ter Ja­madar at the Hall of Jus­tice in Port-of-Spain yes­ter­day the NWRHA’s lawyers were not ready to pro­ceed.

De­vesh Ma­haraj, one of the NWRHA’s at­tor­neys, asked for an ad­journ­ment as he claimed that his client want­ed a Se­nior Coun­sel, who was not avail­able for yes­ter­day’s hear­ing, to lead its le­gal team as the case set a le­gal prece­dent which af­fect­ed all men­tal health work­ers.

“It put a cloud over them. They have be­come cau­tious and re­luc­tant to per­form their du­ties,” Ma­haraj said.

Miller’s lawyer Stan­ley Mar­cus, SC, ob­ject­ed as he claimed that his client want­ed the case de­ter­mined ex­pe­di­tious­ly as she is yet to claim the com­pen­sa­tion award­ed to her.

“She is anx­ious to have the mat­ter re­solved,” Mar­cus said.

Men­don­ca and his col­leagues agreed with Ma­haraj and agreed to post­pone to the case to Oc­to­ber 15.

In her law­suit against the NWRHA, Miller claimed that staff at the hos­pi­tal did not have the au­thor­i­ty un­der the Men­tal Health Act to de­tain her against her will at the min­istry’s of­fice at the In­ter­na­tion­al Wa­ter­front Cen­tre in Port-of-Spain on March 21, 2012.

In her 34-page judg­ment in the case, for­mer High Court judge Ju­dith Jones re­ject­ed claims by the hos­pi­tal’s staff that their ac­tions were per­mit­ted un­der sec­tion 15 of the leg­is­la­tion which al­lows for the com­mit­tal of a cit­i­zen in cir­cum­stances where they are found “wan­der­ing at large” on a road­way or oth­er pub­lic space.

The judge not­ed that their claims were not ap­plic­a­ble as Miller’s cu­bi­cle at the min­istry could not be clas­si­fied as a pub­lic space.

Miller was al­so at­tempt­ing to hold then­Gen­der Min­is­ter Ver­na St Rose-Greaves, the min­istry’s per­ma­nent sec­re­tary San­dra Jones and her deputy Jas­mine Pas­call ac­count­able as they were the ones who con­tact­ed the men­tal health of­fi­cials who de­tained her, but Jones dis­agreed.

“That they may have dealt with the sit­u­a­tion dif­fer­ent­ly and avoid­ed these dras­tic con­se­quences sug­gests to me poor judg­ment on their part,” Jones said, as she ruled that the women were not cul­pa­ble in Miller’s de­ten­tion.

In her judg­ment, the NWRHA was or­dered to pay Miller $450,000 in dam­ages for the em­bar­rass­ment she suf­fered from the in­ci­dent.

Miller was al­so award­ed $75,000 in ex­em­plary dam­ages for be­ing treat­ed with long-act­ing psy­chot­ic drugs while at the hos­pi­tal.

The re­main­der of her com­pen­sa­tion pack­age rep­re­sent­ed the mon­ey which her fam­i­ly spent on le­gal fees for a habeas cor­pus ap­pli­ca­tion which re­sult­ed in her be­ing re­leased from the hos­pi­tal af­ter 17 days.

While the NWRHA is chal­leng­ing the find­ings made in re­spect to its em­ploy­ees in the ap­peal, Miller has filed a sep­a­rate ap­peal over the dis­missal of her claim against Jones and Pas­call.

Kan­dace Bharath is al­so rep­re­sent­ing the NWRHA while Ravi Ra­j­coomar and Sav­it­ri Ma­haraj are rep­re­sent­ing Jones and Pas­call.

Reporter: Derek Achong