Toxic mould court battle

  • Civil Court: Emmerson Donald. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

    Civil Court: Emmerson Donald. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A police officer could be awarded substantial damages after he suffered chronic health problems from being exposed to toxic mould at Hamilton and Somerset police stations.

Emmerson Donald has received nearly $500,000 in interim payments from the Bermuda Government because the Ministry of Works and Engineering has already admitted liability in the civil lawsuit.

This week Mr Donald took the stand at Supreme Court as Chief Justice Ian Kawaley heard arguments from both sides on how much damages the Jamaican national should be awarded in medical expenses and loss of earnings.

Mr Donald came to Bermuda in 2000 after seven years’ experience with the Jamaican police service. The court heard he was an “outstanding” officer with an exemplary record until he first fell ill with chronic renal failure in 2003.

In a sworn statement referred to by his lawyer, Richard Horseman, Mr Donald said his “body and mind were broken down” and his “life was hijacked” by the illness.

The 44-year-old, who still undergoes dialysis three times a week for his health problems, maintained he could have be promoted through the ranks all the way up to superintendent by 2022 had it not been for his medical condition.

Lawyer John Cooper, who represents the Ministry of Works and Engineering and the Attorney General’s Department, suggested to Mr Donald that his promotion aspirations were “wildly” optimistic.

He responded: “I am confident in my ability.

“I understand that the defendants (Government) will try to reduce my claim.”

The court heard that Mr Donald had initially received $275,000 in interim payments and then a further $175,000, which he had kept in a trust while the case was still ongoing instead of spending it.

Mr Cooper questioned Mr Donald on this saying: “Liability has been admitted in this case. You must know more money is coming.”

Mr Donald replied: “Some of it has been paid to experts but most of it is kept in trust because we don’t know how this case will go.”

Yesterday, Commissioner of Police Michael DeSilva took the stand and told the court Mr Donald would have stood a “better than average” chance of being promoted to sergeant after he became eligible to apply for the position in 2003.

He said it was difficult to say how Mr Donald might have risen through the ranks had he not fallen ill in 2003 but he acknowledged that Mr Donald was a first-rate officer with very good investigative skills. During cross-examination Mr Horseman pointed the Commissioner to a six-month probationary report that Mr DeSilva had written about Mr Donald in September 2002.

It stated: “This is an outstanding officer who carries himself in a most professional manner. He is extremely proactive with a deep spirit of dedication. He is a calming influence on his colleagues and has had no sick days.”

Mr Donald’s case is believed to be the first one where substantial damages could be awarded in Bermuda for a mould injury case.

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Published Jan 29, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 29, 2016 at 11:41 am)

Toxic mould court battle

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