Wife moves to court for compensation from dead husband’s employer
A young mother of two has moved to the High Court, seeking some form of compensation following the death of her husband, who fell to his death from a two-storey building owned by his employer earlier this year.
The woman, Denise Smith, is seeking damages in excess of $5M for negligence on the part of her husband’s employer, Vishnu Ramdial of Vish Trading Company Inc.
Through her attorney, Mortimer Coddett, Smith is claiming that her husband’s employer failed to provide the standard care her husband ought to have been provided with for the execution of the task he was doing at the time of his demise.
Smith’s husband, Jerry Anthony Smith, fell to his death on January 17 this year after he was reportedly instructed by his employer to climb onto the roof of a building at Le Ressouvenir, East Coast Demerara to effect some cleaning to the gutter.
A post mortem revealed that Smith died from a ruptured liver. There was the suggestion that he came into contact with a live electrical wire and was hurled some 30 feet to the ground.
Although the employer, who is a dealer in agricultural machinery, had provided funds to cater for the employee’s funeral, agreement on compensation to the dead man’s wife fell through.
According to a document seen by this newspaper, an arrangement was mooted to pay the woman $1M as a settlement for the death of her husband.
But subsequently that figure was reduced to a mere $300,000, which prompted the dead man’s wife to move to the court.
A source close to the employer told this newspaper that the dead man’s grandmother was given a certain sum of money, since it was claimed that he was not living with his wife at the time of his death.
But speaking with this newspaper yesterday, the dead man’s wife, Denise, said that her husband had in fact been called from his home which he shared with her in Enterprise the morning he met his death.
“That morning, the boy (employer) called me and asked for Jerry and I told him that jerry had already left for work,” Denise Smith recalled.
She said that later that day when her husband did not return home, she assumed that he was staying over at his grandmother’s home in Better Hope, which he sometimes does.
She subsequently received a telephone call informing her that her husband was dead but since the message was not too clear she did not put much to it, although she was a bit worried.
But then her husband’s employer contacted her and relayed the same message and this time she took it seriously.
“The next day I see it in the Kaieteur News and I immediately left and went by his grandmother but they started to behave with an attitude,” Denise Smith said.
From that moment she suspected that there would have been some problems with her husband’s relatives.
“The grandmother had the paper and she throw it down and say, ‘You could marry again,” the woman added.
She believes that the attitude stemmed from arrangements made between her husband’s relatives and his employer in the form of compensation for his death.
“I had no problems with them because even when we get a little misunderstanding and we go at his grandmother, she would tell him that if anything should happen to him, it was his wife who they would call first. So it was real different when I get to understand.
“I say maybe because they get money make they operating so,” Denise Smith told this newspaper.
She said that she eventually contacted her husband’s employer who asked her not to go public with the issue and assured her that she will receive some form of compensation, “because Jerry was a good boy’.
“He tell me that he will look after the death expense and we will talk (about the compensation) after the funeral.”
She was given $30,000 to keep a wake for her dead husband and another $20,000 to purchase clothing for the funeral.
But despite the arrangement for compensation, things took a different twist.
“After the funeral, he tell me that he will give me $300,000 and he gon look out for me as if he was my husband. But I was with a friend who objected to that arrangement. Then he carry me in his house and say, alright, he gone give me a million dollar, but he say he got to give the granny some. So I say that that has nothing to do with me, ‘I am his wife and you know that’,” stated Smith, who then left and went home with that arrangement in mind.
But on a subsequent visit to her late husband’s employer, she was greeted with a business card of an attorney at law who was contracted to act on behalf of the businessman.
Frustrated, Smith said that she never contacted him again.
She then sought the intervention of the Ministry of Labour and according to her, an official there told her that there was nothing the Ministry could do. The Ministry advised her to take legal steps to address the matter.
Her lawyer, Mortimer Coddett then contacted the employer with a view of having the matter amicably settled but he too was met with a referral to the businessman’s legal counsel.
According to Coddett, the employer breached the labour law by not providing proper safety measures for Jerry Smith, with regard to the task he was asked to do.
The lawyer confirmed that the initial offer to his client was $1M but this was reduced to $300,000.
“The Ministry of Labour encouraged the girl to take the $300,000. They told her to do away with her lawyer,” Coddett told this newspaper.
He said that the matter will now be decided in the court since there is no indication on the part of the dead man’s employer to reach an amicable settlement.