Visitor loses eye in police attack
When Desmond Hepburn visited Jamaica in April 2008 to attend a funeral, he did not envision that he would be shot in his right eye by policemen who recklessly fired their weapons into the motor vehicle in which he was travelling. Hepburn, who lost...
When Desmond Hepburn visited Jamaica in April 2008 to attend a funeral, he did not envision that he would be shot in his right eye by policemen who recklessly fired their weapons into the motor vehicle in which he was travelling.
Hepburn, who lost sight in that eye, filed a negligence suit in the Supreme Court in 2011 against the attorney general, who accepted liability.
After an assessment of damages and on March 2 this year, the Government was ordered to pay millions of dollars to Hepburn, who was an electrician when he was injured.
“I do, however, believe that exemplary damages should be awarded because the actions of the police officers, in discharging their firearms in the way they did, should be frowned on very deeply and the sum of $1,000,000 is awarded under this head,” Justice Tania Mott Tulloch-Reid ruled.
Hepburn, who lives in New York, says he has been handicapped on the labour market as he continues to suffer from severe headaches and chronic pains in the area of the injury. He disclosed that the loss of sight in one of his eyes has changed his life forever.
On April 25, 2008, Hepburn was standing with family members in front of a house when he observed four heavily tinted sports utility vehicles drive slowly by. Shortly after, he and some of his relatives decided to leave.
“What happened next could very well be the scene from a Hollywood action movie for according to Mr Hepburn, while he and his family members were driving out of the community, heading towards Old Harbour, three SUVs blocked their path while a fourth drove up from behind and blocked them in,” the judge commented in her review of the evidence.
Hepburn said that his uncle managed to reverse his motor vehicle so that it passed the fourth vehicle, and while driving away, shots were fired into the vehicle.
Hepburn, who was sitting in the front of the vehicle, was shot in the right eye.
While at the Spanish Town Hospital, the men who shot Hepburn turned up and he discovered that they were cops. He reported the matter to other police officers.
The injured man was later transferred to the Kingston Public Hospital, where he remained for two days before being transferred to the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Florida for doctors to try to save the left eye, which was at risk. He had two surgeries to save the left eye.
The injury to Hepburn’s right eye has resulted in irreversible damage to the eyeball and permanent loss of vision in that eye. He was fitted with a prosthetic in that eye, for which he said the cost was US$4,500 and has to be replaced every five years.
Hepburn now has double vision, which inhibits his accuracy, and, therefore, he cannot work as an electrician. He finds getting employment very difficult and has to resort to odd jobs.
Several medical reports from local and overseas-based professionals were agreed upon by the parties and admitted into evidence.
Consultant neurosurgeon Dr Randolph Cheeks noted that a plain X-ray of the skull revealed bullet fragments in the orbit and head of the right mandible, noting that the impairment of depth perception was “a dangerous impediment for an electrician”.
Attorneys-at-law Aisha Mulendwe and Patrick Forrester, who represented Hepburn, had argued that the awards should be substantial and referred to several cases to support their claim.
The judge found that Hepburn suffered serious physical injuries, which also affected him mentally and emotionally.
He was awarded damages for pain and suffering and loss of amenities to the tune of $8 million as well as $2.3 million for psychological injury. For future prostheses, he was awarded US$18,600, as well as exemplary damages of $1 million, and another $1.5 million for handicap in the labour market, less the sum of $8.5 million, which was already paid under an order for interim payment in April 2020.
Hepburn was awarded special damages of $136,142 and US$17,061.55 plus interest of three per cent per annum from April 25, 2008, to July 15, 2021.
He was also awarded legal costs against the defendant.
Attorney-at-law Kristen Fletcher, instructed by the director of state proceedings, represented the attorney general.