Judge moves to protect man, 74, caught in middle of family feud

Justice Frank Seepersad. -
Justice Frank Seepersad. -

Fearing a 74-year-old man is not being properly cared for to reduce the risk of him contracting the covid19 virus, a High Court judge on Friday ordered that he be removed from his home in Macoya.

In an unprecedented ruling delivered in the San Fernando High Court, Justice Frank Seepersad ordered the man's sister to go to his house where his daughter-in-law claims she is caring for him. His sister must take him immediately to his brother's house in New Grant, Princes Town.

The judge granted the 68-year-old sister immediate access to her brother on the premise that a nurse and other immediate family members would give him the best care.

Seepersad said, "The welfare of the intended patient, especially in the unusual circumstances which bear upon this republic by virtue of covid19, is of concern."

The sister filed a Habeas Corpus application citing the unhealthy condition under which the man is living after suffering two strokes. Told that among the people in the house is the daughter-in-law's three young children and her mother, Seepersad deemed the matter fit for urgent hearing.

The sister flew in from New York to file the court matter so she can remove her brother who lived with the daughter-in-law and his adopted son. The son died in 2018. The man has no children of his own.

Owing to covid19 court protocol, Seepersad heard the matter via Skype with the attorneys in their respective offices. Dr Margaret Burgess, who represented the sister, did so from her office in Tunupuna, and Joseph Carlos George for the 28-year-old daughter-in-law, from Port of Spain.

The identity of the man cannot be disclosed according to the Mental Health Act. Burgess had sought an order to have him examined by a psychiatrist. She contended that the sister-in-law refused relatives access to him despite his need for urgent nursing care.

Burgess told Seepersad that the man is confined to a room used as a library and is on a mattress all day. On February 7, his brother called at the gates of the home but got no response although there was music playing.

She further alleged that the daughter-in-law seized the man's bank card, deeds, ID card and birth certificate. She said, "On November 7, 2019, the patient suffered a second and more serious stroke which resulted in him becoming bedridden, yet the respondent (daughter-in-law) continues to deny relatives any access to him, despite his urgent need of medical attention and proper nursing care."

Noting that the daughter-in-law, her children and her mother live in the same house, Seepersad said that the court is minded to question whether they can "take the appropriate measures to ensure the intended patient's isolation, to guard against him contracting covid19."

Seepersad ruled that having regard to the man's age and overwhelming evidence of the impact of covid19 on the elderly, the court must err on the side of caution.

The daughter-in-law, Seepersad said, uses the man's National Insurance and old age pension for her family, including her mother. She is less likely to afford the requisite degree of care and isolation to minimise his exposure to the virus.

He ordered an interim declaration that the sister and her brother in New Grant, as next of kin, are entitled to access the man’s medical records.

He declared that the daughter-in-law's power of attorney to conduct the man’s financial affairs, be declared null and void and of no effect.

And while declaring the sister fit conduct all her brother's business, she is to account for the $8,700 he receives monthly in pension and NIS payments, and spending on his care and welfare.

The case is scheduled for hearing on June 15.


"Judge moves to protect man, 74, caught in middle of family feud"

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