The Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) has ruled against a healthcare facility and in favour of a woman whose wedding ring finger was amputated after being bitten during an armed robbery in 2016.
The woman had sued Dr Francois du Toit Inc, an emergency medicine healthcare organisation, for R2m, alleging it had not adequately treated her bite wound after a man bit it during the attack on her and her husband outside their home.
TimesLIVE reports that the woman, named as AW Malan in the judgment passed last week, was taken to Kloof Hospital after the attack on 17 January 2016.
After her treatment for various injuries, including the bite wound, she was issued a prescription. A few days later the pain in the left ring finger became unbearable and her hand became swollen.
Her GP referred her to an orthopaedic surgeon who then treated her, but on 15 March 2017, her ring finger was amputated.
She sued Dr Francois du Toit Inc, saying it had wrongfully and negligently breached its legal duty in various ways, including failing to explore the human bite to her finger. She said the healthcare organisation should have foreseen it would create an orthopaedic emergency requiring immediate hospitalisation and prescription of therapy antibiotics to prevent infection. The woman said she had told the treating nurses and doctors that she was bitten more than once.
The claim of R2m was for hospital expenses, future loss of earning capacity and general damages.
At the start of the trial, the parties agreed the court should deal with the merits of the claim, and not the amount of damages.
Judge Harshila Kooverjie said Malan’s testimony on the disclosure of the bite was corroborated by her husband.
The doctor who treated her persisted in her evidence that the woman had not disclosed to her the fact that she was bitten on her finger. If she had done so, her treatment protocol would have been very different, the doctor said.
The judge said she had found it was highly probable that the disclosure of the bite was made, hence the treatment was not appropriate.
“Consequently, the defendant has wrongfully and negligently breached its legal duty,” Kooverjie said.
She said the expert report by the healthcare organisation said a human bite required concerted treatment. This included prophylactic antibiotics, hospitalisation, intravenous antibiotics and debridement. “I find that the treatment was inappropriate,” Kooverjie said, as she ordered the healthcare organisation to pay the proven damages.Malan_v_Dr_FG_Du_Toit_Inc
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