The child, only identified as L in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, judgment, was only 3 weeks old when his parents rushed him to the hospital in Limpopo (not named in the judgment).
He was admitted on June 17, 2004, on an initial diagnosis of anaemia. His condition deteriorated and he was eventually diagnosed with, among others, tuberculosis and HIV.
The drip incorrectly inserted in the child’s left temporal area of his forehead became septic and resulted in skin necrosis. The doctors admitted 100% liability for the damages suffered by the child, now aged 14.
Reconstructive surgeons told the court that one scar was 15cm x 12cm long and reached from slightly above the child’s eye to his forehead. They described the scar as “cosmetically unsightly and disfiguring”.
They were of the opinion that only part of the one scar can be improved by way of reconstructive surgery. The experts told the court the scar was conspicuous and difficult to conceal.
One of the experts said “surgical revision will improve the appearance of the scars, but the patient will remain disfigured as a result of his injuries”.
The court was also told that L will still feel self-conscious in social situations, his clothing choices would be limited and certain environmental circumstances, such as harsh sunlight could be uncomfortable for him. Thus, the expert said, his scars should be considered permanent disfigurement.
Acting Judge JJ Strijdom, in deciding how much damages to award, said it was difficult to know whether these scars would influence the child’s earning capacity one day.
“Loss of earning capacity is of its nature speculative because it involves a prediction of the future, without the benefit of crystal balls, soothsayers, augurs or oracles. All the court can do is to make an estimate,” the judge said.
He awarded the parents R450000 in general damages and R110000 towards future reconstructive surgery.