Nurse hurt at building site seeks R2.8m
The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria
Pretoria – An orthopaedic nurse from Mamelodi West is claiming R2.8million from the company which refurbished Denlyn Mall after a portion of scaffolding fell on her head.
Thembi Ngobese said the accident happened on October 14, 2010, while she was on her way to a bank.
She instituted the claim against Ferro Eleganzie Ltd, a Silverton company which refurbished the parking area at the mall.
Ngobese testified in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, that on the day of the incident there was building construction under way and shoppers had to walk through a passageway to get to the shops.
The passage was made of scaffolding with boards on the sides, covered at the top with planks and steel. However, one could see the workers who were on the top.
The passage was wide enough for two people to walk next to each other.
Ngobese said there were no warning signs or barrier tape to prevent members of the public access to the passage. She testified that besides this, there was no other way to get to the shops.
As she was walking through the passage, an object, which she described as “powerful”, fell from the top and struck her on her forehead, which caused her to fall on her back.
Ngobese testified that she “saw stars” and she had excruciating pain on her forehead, neck and back.
As she remained lying on her back she saw a hole in the roof of the passage through which two workers were looking at her.
She called out to them for help as she feared that more objects might fall on top of her, but they ignored her.
Two shoppers came to her aid and took her to the construction site office. She said one of the managers there offered to buy her ointment for her head and bread to take home. She declined this offer and said she wanted to see a doctor instead.
Her family fetched her and took her to hospital. It emerged that she had dislocated some of the vertebrae in her spine, suffered torn ligaments and facial injuries. Pins were inserted into her back to prevent it from collapsing. She said her medical condition subsequently made it very difficult for her to perform her duties as a nurse.
Two other shoppers testified that the people were required to walk underneath the scaffolding as there was no other route available to them. One witness was slightly behind Ngobese when the accident occurred and according to her the woman was struck by something which fell out of the scaffolding. In her opinion, it was a plank which fell from the top.
The company responsible for the refurbishing of the parking lot, however, accused Ngobese of walking into the scaffolding and thus hitting her forehead.
Judge TP Mudau said Ngobese’s version that she was struck by a portion of the scaffolding or an object that fell from the top of the scaffolding had struck her was corroborated by other witnesses. He said the object could have come from nowhere other than from where the workers were busy with construction work.
He ordered that the company was liable for the damages which Ngobese could prove she had suffered.
The amount of damages due to her will be determined at a later stage following medical evidence regarding her condition.