Paralysed rugby player can't blame dept, SCA rules

2014-09-26 14:40


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Johannesburg - A young man who was left paralysed at 17 following a rugby injury cannot hold the health department responsible, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruled this week.

"The conduct of the department’s employees was not a factual cause of his paralysis," Judge Kevin Swain said in a judgment issued by the court.

In March 2002 Charles Oppelt, playing hooker in a club rugby match, sustained a spinal cord injury.

"The injury tragically and irrevocably changed his life."

Subsequently, Oppelt instituted action against the department in the Western Cape High Court in Cape Town.

He argued that if the department's employees had taken him for a particular kind of treatment within four hours of his injury - the use of weights on a pulley system as opposed to immediate surgery - his paralysis could have been prevented.

The high court found in his favour, but the department appealed to the SCA.

In the SCA judgment, Swain said it could not be proved that the treatment Oppelt referred to would have ensured his recovery.

Therefore, "there was no legal duty on the part of the employees of the department to administer it within the requisite four-hour period. Their conduct in not doing so would not be wrongful”.

Read more on:    cape town  |  education

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