Johannesburg - The parents of Lewis Wynne, the boy whose legs were amputated after a tree fell on him in class, are suing the Gauteng Department of Education for R10 million.
The department is offering R3.5m as an out-of-court settlement.
In papers filed at the Johannesburg High Court, the parents accuse the department of “failing to take sufficient care or any precaution to prevent” the tree from falling and injuring Lewis.
They also complain that Lewis had suffered, among others, loss of earning capacity as his injuries had rendered him unemployable.
“The amount claimed is an estimate for pain and suffering, disfigurement and loss of amenities of life…” the court papers read in part.
On Tuesday, Lewis’s parents described as an insult the offer by the department. They cited the emotional and psychological trauma that their son was suffering, in addition to the physical disability.
“My child avoids playing outside the house. Each time he goes out he comes back crying, complaining that his peers say he has toy legs. It pains me a lot,” said Lewis’s mother, Ntswaki Wynne.
The tree crushed both of Lewis’s legs when it fell onto his container classroom at Carter Primary School in Alexandra in October.
The injuries were so severe that doctors had to amputate both legs - one below the knee and the other at the knee joint. He now uses prosthetic legs.
Almost a year later, Wynne said she had still not accepted the boy’s condition.
“Sometimes he says ‘mama, I don’t have legs’. Each time I look at him, it breaks my heart and I cry silently.”
Education Department spokesman Charles Phahlane described the parents’ decision to institute legal claims as “unfortunate”.
He detailed a range of steps, including paying for his specialist medical and rehabilitation treatment, that the department had provided.
The department was also paying the boy’s school fees at Hope School in Parktown, which provides therapy for pupils with disabilities.
He said the department remained committed to an equitable settlement but that their efforts were being frustrated by the family’s attorney, Isaac Mabunda.
“The attorney could not produce a legal opinion to substantiate the higher demand,” Phahlane said.
The department had since requested that the claim be reassessed by an independent team of medical experts.
Mabunda said the legal claims were based on medical reports from specialists.
“We don’t know where they got R3.5 million from. There is no basis for that amount. It’s ridiculous. If we don’t agree on the quantum, let the courts decide,” he said. - The Star