Rat-bite in hospital, compensation claimed: Madras HC relies on newspaper report since no rejoinder was given by Hospital

Madras High Court: C.V. Karthikeyan, J., grants compensation to a woman who got bitten by a rat in a hospital.

The instant petition was filed seeking a direction against the respondents to pay a sum of Rs 2,00,000 to the petitioner for an alleged rat-bite suffered by her in her left hand in Government Rajaji Hospital.

Petitioner’s son had suffered grievous injuries in a road accident and was admitted as in-patient in Government Rajaji Hospital. Petitioner and her husband alternatively took care of their son.

When the petitioner was sleeping near the cot of her son, a rat bit the petitioner on her elbow. Later she gave representation to the respondents and sought the abolition of rats from the hospital. Since there was no response, she filed a writ petition seeking compensation of Rs 2,00,000 for the injury suffered by her.

Analysis and Decision

High Court noted that the rat bite was said to have taken place on 23-1-2014. But the petitioner actually took treatment for the same only on 31-1-2014. The explanation given by the petitioner was that only when the swelling and pain increased, she took treatment.

In the medical receipt, it was seen that the duty doctor whose name and other details were not known or rather identifiable, had mentioned rat-bite as the nature of the treatment given.

Petitioner had also submitted newspaper reports of the said incidents, to which the Court stated that though the newspaper reports cannot be conclusive evidence, still the probability of the petitioner having suffered a rat bite can only be inferred as true owing to the reports. In fact, the Medical Superintendent of Government Rajaji Hospital when contacted by Indian Express had only stated that blockages in the drainage system laid to rat menace in the hospital.

The Bench observed that the fact that the petitioner had suffered a rat bite cannot be brushed under the carpet and stated to be a false statement. If it was a false statement, then responsible officers of the Government Rajaji Hospital at Madurai would have certainly given a rejoinder to the newspaper items.

“….while examining a particular fact in the Writ Petition, strict rules of evidence do not apply but existence of a fact can be taken judicial note by surrounding circumstances…”

 Compensation

Therefore, High Court held that the rat bite in Government Rajaji Hospital, Madurai was an unforeseen accident and when an accident occurs which is unforeseen, then compensation is automatically payable.

In view of no evidence being provided by the petitioner that she had to undergo a protracted treatment spreading over a number of days, Court decided to grant compensation of Rs 25,000 for the shock suffered by the petitioner being bitten by a rat in the middle of the night in hospital premises.

Liability

In Court’s opinion, the State of Tamil Nadu represented by the Principal Secretary, Health Department, Fort St George, Chennai was the ultimate official to grant compensation. [Muthulakshmi v. State of Tamil Nadu, WP (MD) No. 2283 of 2014, decided on 16-12-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For Petitioner: Mr B. Dhanasekaran

For R1 to R-3: Mr J John Rajadurai

and R-5 to R-7: Government Advocate

For R-4: Mr R. Murali

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