A municipal police officer, who was left with a long term back injury after assisting in detaining a suspect, has been given the green light to pursue her case over being placed on no-pay leave for almost three years after suffering a relapse.
In a recent decision, High Court Judge David Harris granted Sgt Maria Maharaj leave to pursue her judicial review case against the San Fernando Municipal Corporation and the Statutory Authority Service Commission as he ruled that she had presented an arguable case with a realistic prospect of success.
Harris said: “Further, this Court agrees with the Applicant that the issues raised in this claim are of great general and public importance regarding the classification of leave whereby an officer has suffered a relapse of an initial injury whilst performing his/her duty.”
According to the evidence in the case, Maharaj suffered the injury while attempting to help a colleague arrest a suspect at High Street in San Fernando on September 9, 2012.
Maharaj was holding the car door open when the suspect pushed her colleague. This caused her to jerk backwards and led to injuries to her back and spine.
She was placed on paid injury leave until February 2016, when the commission received a report from the Ministry of Health’s Medical Board indicating that she (Maharaj) was fit to resume duty. The board also recommended that she be provided with an ergonomic chair.
In March 2017, Maharaj suffered a relapse and received a series of sick leave certificates from her doctor.
She was initially placed on injury leave and received her full salary but after a few months her leave was reclassified and she received half pay.
Later that year she was placed on extended sick leave without pay. Maharaj was twice promoted in her absence away from work and eventually resumed duty early last year.
In her lawsuit, Maharaj is challenging the decision of the corporation and the commission to classify her leave without her being assessed by the Medical Board a second time.
In response, both parties denied any wrongdoing as they claimed that they had contacted the board and were informed that there are no provisions for her to return before it after its original assessment of her injuries. They suggested that a lawsuit against the ministry and the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) over the issue would have been more appropriate.
In his decision, Harris rejected the claims as being a bar to her pursuing the lawsuit.
Through the lawsuit, Maharaj is seeking declarations against the corporation and commission and an order compelling her appearance before the board and reclassification of her leave.
She is also seeking financial compensation.
Harris transferred the substantive case to another judge, who will set a timeline for determination.
Maharaj is being represented by Anand Ramlogan, SC, Alvin Pariagsingh, and Alana Rambaran. Ravi Persad and Ravi Mungalsingh represented the corporation, while Michelle Benjamin appeared for the commission.