A municipal police officer, who was left with a long-term back injury after assisting in detaining a suspect, has succeeded in her legal challenge over being placed on no-pay leave for almost three years after suffering a relapse.
Delivering a recent judgment, High Court Judge Betsy-Ann Lambert-Peterson upheld Sgt Maria Maharaj’s lawsuit against the San Fernando Municipal Corporation, the Statutory Authorities Service Commission, Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) and the Ministry of Health.
According to the evidence in the case, Maharaj suffered the injury while attempting to help a colleague arrest a suspect on High Street, San Fernando, on September 9, 2012.
Maharaj was holding the car door open, when the suspect pushed her colleague, causing her to jerk backwards. She suffered injuries to her back and spine.
She was placed on paid injury leave until February 2016, when the commission received a report from the Ministry of Health’s Medical Board indicating that she (Maharaj) was fit to resume duty. The board also recommended that she be provided with an ergonomic chair and orthopaedic shoes.
In March 2017, however, Maharaj suffered a relapse and received a series of sick leave certificates from her doctor.
She was initially placed on injury leave and received her full salary but after a few months, her leave was reclassified and she received half pay.
Later that year, she was placed on extended sick leave without pay. Maharaj was twice promoted in her absence away from work and eventually resumed duty early last year.
In her lawsuit, Maharaj is challenging the decision of the corporation and the commission to classify her leave without her being assessed by the Medical Board a second time.
In defence of the case, the corporation denied any wrongdoing, as it claimed that it made attempts to ensure she received the chair and shoes between April 2016 and November 2017.
It also claimed that it wrote to the ministry requesting that she be reassessed by the board. The CPO and ministry did not file evidence in opposition to the case.
In her judgment, Justice Lambert-Peterson quashed the corporation’s decision on classifying Maharaj’s leave and remitted it for the corporation to reconsider.
She also ruled that the corporation and commission were guilty of unreasonable delay in having her reassessed by the board and Maharaj’s legitimate expectation to be reassessed was frustrated.
As part of her decision, the bodies were ordered to pay Maharaj’s legal costs for pursuing the case. Maharaj was represented by Anand Ramlogan, SC, Jayanti Lutchmedial, Jared Jagroo and Alana Rambaran.
Keston McQuilkin and Rondel Donowa represented the corporation, while Rachel Jacob and Michelle Benjamin represented the ministry.