A 61-year-old man, who was left permanently scarred after doused with acid by his sister-in-law, has finally received compensation after an almost two-decade-long legal battle.
On January 31, High Court Master Martha Alexander ordered more than $1 million compensation for Raffick Mohammed, of Walker Street, Caroni, at the end of his protracted private assault and battery claim against Myra Bhagwansingh.
In a telephone interview on Thursday, Mohammed said he was pleased with the outcome.
“Money can’t compensate for this but I can help a little,” he said.
However, he stated that he was disappointed by the slow pace of the justice system.
“Justice is like that in Trinidad. Imagine when this happened, my son was one-year-old, now he has a one-year-old son himself,” Mohammed said.
In assessing the compensation, Alexander analysed the extensive injuries he sustained in 1991 and the dozen procedures and operations he had to undergo to help repair the damage.
Alexander noted that Mohammed suffered acid burns to 16 per cent of his body in the attack. His face was left disfigured. Skin had to be harvested from his groin and thighs for skin grafts.
In addition to the physical injuries, Mohammed also claimed to have suffered depression.
“I became very depressed and frustrated with way I looked. I could not even look at myself in the mirror for years after the incident. Sometimes I felt like giving up and committing suicide,” he said in his witness statement.
“I am always wary of people looking at my scars and I would often wear long sleeve shirts or turn my face in a way to make the case look less apparent,” he added.
Alexander ruled that he was entitled to CA$10,092.95 and TT$531,539.75 in special damages to cover the costs of medical expenses since the incident.
She also ruled Mohammed was entitled to $385,000 in general and aggravated damages for the pain and suffering he endured.
“His injuries eroded his self-confidence, self-esteem and confined him to his home, causing him to feel as if he were inside a jail cell,” Alexander said as she noted that he was forced to wear a protective mask for three years while recovering from surgeries.
She also ordered that he be paid $60,000 in damages for being handicapped on the job market by the injuries.
The total compensation is expected to be well over $ 1 million, as Alexander ordered Bhagwansingh to also pay 2.5 per cent interest on the general damages and 1.5 per cent interest on the special damages from the date of the incident.
About the case
According to the evidence, the lawsuit stemmed from an incident at Bhagwansingh’s fabric store in Chaguanas on August 29, 1991.
Bhagwansingh, whose brother was married to Mohammed’s sister, reportedly invited him inside the store for a conversation.
Mohammed claimed that Bhagwansingh accused him of reporting her brother to officials of the Customs and Excise Division before she drew a glass jar from under the cash register and threw the contents unto his face and neck.
“I felt the liquid penetrating through my skin and I immediately began to feel stinging and burning pains about my body,” Mohammed said in his witness statement.
Mohammed attempted to flee but Bhagwansingh chased after him and threw another container of the liquid on his back.
In February 1996, Bhagwansingh was convicted of causing grievous bodily harm to Mohammed and was sentenced to 12 years in prison and 10 strokes with the cat-o-nine tails.
She eventually won her appeal and faced a retrial. She was again convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Mohammed filed his compensation claim against Bhagwansingh in 1995, but procedural delays meant that it was only determined in his favour in 2015.
Mohammed was represented by Abdel and Shabaana Mohammed, while Javier Forrester and Stacey Waithe represented Bhagwansingh.