A former room attendant at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, who seriously injured her hand while changing the bedsheets in a guestroom in 2015, has successfully sued her former employer for negligence.
Delivering an oral judgement following a brief virtual trial, yesterday, High Court Judge Frank Seepersad ruled that the hotel was negligent by failing to put in a safe system of work to complete the task at the time when 41-year-old Natasha Williams was injured.
Despite his ruling on the hotel’s liability, Seepersad still commended it for its “stellar” response to Williams’ incident as he noted that it had paid for her initial medical expenses and sought to keep her employed for almost three years while it searched for alternative employment within the company.
Seepersad did not immediately assess the compensation to be paid to Williams, who has been unemployed since her association with the hotel ended in 2018, but noted that an ex gratia payment and another under the Workmen’s Compensation Act, which were given to Williams, would have to be deducted.
According to the evidence in the case, the incident occurred on September 15, 2015, while Williams was lifting an end of a mattress to tuck in some bedsheets.
She heard a pop sound and then intense pain in her right wrist.
Williams was diagnosed to be suffering from a triangular fibro-cartilage tear and still has not regained full use of her hand even after undergoing surgery.
While being cross-examined by Hyatt’s lawyer Keith Scotland, yesterday, Williams claimed that she and her colleagues repeatedly complained about the weight of the hotel’s mattresses to their supervisors before the incident.
Asked by Scotland, why she never made a written complaint in her seven years with the company, she claimed that she feared being victimised.
However, she admitted that she was not victimised and could not bring any witnesses to prove otherwise.
Williams also admitted that when she joined the company in 2008 she underwent training on how to properly lift mattresses while changing sheets.
A senior human resource official at the hotel admitted that she only received complaints about the weight of the mattresses after Williams’ incident and that they were changed on the direction of the international hotel chain as is done periodically. The Bed MadeEZ devices were also purchased.
While testifying, the head of the hotel’s housekeeping department Trevor Redhead claimed that such devices were not available at the time of Williams’ incident.
In assessing the evidence in the trial, Seepersad ruled that all the witnesses were credible and that the injury sustained by Williams was possible and plausible.
He said that hotel’s recognition of the issue with the mattresses was evidenced by the fact that they were changed and that it maintained the use of the devices even after then.
Seepersad is expected to assess the compensation when the case comes up for hearing on March 18.
Williams was represented by Shawn Roopnarine and Ravi Pheerangee, while Asha Watkins-Montserin appeared alongside Scotland for the hotel.