By Marion V. Ali
The Government of Belize, through the Attorney General’s Ministry, has made its first payment to Georgia Matute, the mother of Janae Matute, 14, who suffered a permanent and debilitating birth injury due to a doctor’s miscalculation of her gestational age, causing her birth one month early.
The $300,000 first payment, was delivered to the law office of Matute’s attorney, Fred Lumor, on Monday January 5th by a representative from the Attorney General’s Ministry. Matute told the Reporter this week that when she does receive the money, her first priority will be to ensure that proper accommodations are put in place, at home and otherwise, to facilitate Janae’s mobility. She says she will also ensure that her child receives the therapy she needs.
Matute’s attorney, Fred Lumor, Senior Counsel, who had been prosecuting this case since the early 2000’s, decided to involve the media prior to the Christmas holidays to prompt the government’s response after the final court ruling in the earlier part of 2014.
Following Lumor’s press conference, Prime Minister Dean Barrow told reporters that he was going to find out why there hadn’t been any effort to pay the mother and child.
“Whatever needs to be done, let’s get it done so these people can start being compensated as they should be.”
The court found Janae was born with cerebral palsy, a debilitating birth condition that restricts mobility and control over one’s limbs. It was caused by medical negligence on the part of Dr. Raju Meenvalli, who at the time was employed by the Government of Belize as a medical officer in Belmopan. He also delivered Janae at the Belmopan Hospital.
Altogether, with interest that accrued at a rate of six percent for the time that had elapsed since the ruling, the Matutes are due to receive $2,317,395.
Initially the Supreme Court had awarded Janae $2.5 million, but on appeal, it reduced that figure to $1.4 million. It also awarded her mother $104, 341 in special damages for expenses incurred over the years to take care of Janae and an additional $577,416 in general damages, which included an award for having to leave her job to care full time for her child.