Knott v T&T Telephone Company Ltd

JurisdictionTrinidad & Tobago
JudgeBlackman, J.
Judgment Date25 January 1989
Neutral CitationTT 1989 HC 4
Docket NumberNo. 778 of 1986
CourtHigh Court (Trinidad and Tobago)
Date25 January 1989

High Court

Blackman, J.

No. 778 of 1986

T&T Telephone Co.Ltd.

Mrs. S. Marcus for plaintiff

Mr. S. Jairam for defendant

Practice and procedure - Workmen's Compensation — Plaintiff's wife brought action against defendants following her husband's death — Widow's claim brought one year after husband's death — Action barred by s. 4(3) of Workmen's Compensation Act — However no impediment exists to children's claim under the Compensation for Injuries Act.

Blackman, J.

The parties agreed to the trial of the following preliminary issue in this action, that is, –

“Whether upon the facts pleaded in paragraphs 1,2,3,4,5 and 6 of the Statement of Claim and paragraphs 1 and 2 of the Defence, the Defence alleged or pleas sat out in paragraph 3 of the Defence disclose a good defence in law to all the claims and causes of action pleaded by the plaintiff in her Statement of Claim.”


I think it is necessary to set out the paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the Statement of Claim as well as paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 of the Defence.


I first set out the relevant paragraphs of the Statement of Claim. They are as follows

    The plaintiff is the lawful widow of RAYMOND JOSEPH KNOTT, deceased (hereinafter referred to as “the said deceased”) and the administrator of his estate, letters of administration No. L 1465 of 1986 having been granted to her by the High Court of Justice on 4th day of October, 1985. 2. The Plaintiff brings this action on behalf of herself, MAKEDA KNOTT AND SHEM KNOTT, dependants of the said deceased pursuant to the provisions of the Compensation for Injuries Act, Chapter 8:05 and on behalf and for the benefit of the estate of the deceased pursuant to the provisions of Section 2'7 of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act, Chapter 4:01. 3. The defendant company is a limited liability company under the laws of Trinidad and Tobago and authorized by statute own, maintain and operate, inter alia, a telephone communication system in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. 4. The deceased Raymond Joseph Knott was on the 1st day of February, 1985 36 years old and on that date and at all material times employed as an engineer with the defendant at its telephone exchange, known as the “Nelson Exchange” situate at Edward and Sackville Streets, in the city of Port of Spain. .5. On the 1st day of February, 1985 while the deceased was present in the generator room of the said Nelson Exchange and pursuing his duties relating to and in the course of employment with the defendant company, there was an explosion emanating from the equipment of and belonging to the defendant company in the said room. 6. As a result of the said explosion, the deceased sustained 7912% total surface body burns and in consequence died on the 20th day of February, 1985.

The relevant paragraphs of the Defence are as follows:

    “On the 1st day of February, 1985, the deceased, Raymond Joseph Knott, in his capacity as an employee of the Defendant, was an adult and a workman within the meaning of the Workmen's Compensation Act, Chapter 88:05 (hereinafter called “the Act”) when he was injured in an accident (while so employed), and which said accident caused his death on the 20th February, 1985. By virtue of the provisions of the Act, the said accident is deemed to arise out of and in the course of his employment. 2. The deceased workman, through the plaintiff, received from the defendant, since the said 1st February, 1985, compensation in the sum of $121,644.00 in respect of such injury and/or in respect of such accident in or about April, 1986, pursuant to the provisions of the Act. Particulars At the date of the said accident the deceased was in receipt of a monthly salary of $3,379.00. The said sum of $121,644.00 which was deposited with the Registrar of the Supreme Court on 30th December, was divided equally amongst the deceased workman's dependants, viz Kathy Knott (his wife) and Makeda Knott and Shem Knott (his children). Of this sum, the sum of $40,548.00 was received as such by the said Kathy Knott and the balance of $81,096.00 received as such and was placed on a fixed deposit at the National Commercial Bank of Trinidad and Tobago Limited for and on behalf the said Makeda Knott and Shem Knott in equal shares and the interest due thereon is paid to the said Kathy Knott once every three months. 3. In the premises, the plaintiff's cause of action herein, if any accrued more than one (1) year before the commencement of this action, or alternatively, the action herein was brought after the expiration of one (1) year from the date (1st February, 1985) on which the cause of action accrued, and the defendant will rely upon Section 4 (3) of the Act. The undermentioned pleas are without prejudice to the foregoing pleas.

Now, Section 4 (3) of the Workmen's Compensation Act (“the Act”) provides that:

“Where compensation payable under this Act for injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment is received as such by a workman who is an adult; no action shall be brought against the employer for compensation independently of this Act by such workman in respect of such accident after the expiration of one year from the date on which the cause of action accrued.”


Section 2 (2) of the Act is to this effect:

“Any reference to a workman who has been injured, or has been disabled shall where workman is dead, include a reference to his legal personal representative or to his dependents or other person to whom or for whose benefit compensation is payable.”


Section 3 of the Compensation for Injuries Act provides that:

“Whenever the death of any person is caused by some wrongful act, neglect or default, and the act, neglect or default is such as would be at the commencement of this Act (if death had not ensued) have entitled the party injured to maintain an action and recover damages in respect thereof, then and in every such case the ‘person who would have been liable if death had not ensued shall be liable to an action for damages, notwithstanding the death of the person…. injured and although the death shall have been under such circumstances as amount in law to an arrestable offence.”


Section 5 (1) of the Compensation for Injuries Act contains the following provisions:

“An action under Section 3 shall be commenced within four years after the death of the deceased person.”


The agreed facts on the preliminary point are as follows:

“The workman sustained injuries out of and in the course of his employment with the defendant on 1 st February, 1985. He died as a result of those injuries on 20th February, 1985. The workman through the plaintiff received from the defendant since 1st February, 1985 compensation in the sum of $121, 644.00 in respect of the injuries and or the accident. The above compensation was received in or about the month of April, 1986. The sum $121, 644.00 represents thirty six months' earnings in accordance with Section 5 (1) (a) (i) of the Act (88:05).

The sum of $121, 644 was deposited with the Registrar of the Supreme Court on 30th December, 1985 and was divided equally amongst the workman's. dependants, viz. Kathy Knott (his wife), Makeda Knott (his daughter and Shem Knott (his son) $40,548.00 being received by the widow, and $81,096.00 being assigned to the two children in equal shares.

The plaintiff's writ was issued on 14th February, 1986.”


The most significant submission made by Mr. Jairam on behalf of the defendant was that –

“upon the admitted facts, the plaintiff's action under Compensation for Injuries Act is barred because of Section 4 (3) of the Act. Section 4 (3) of the Act has already been quoted. The workman is no longer alive and therefore Mr. Jairam called Section 2 (2) of the Act in aid.”


Mr. Marcus, attorney for the plaintiff, on the other hand argued that under Section 4 (3) of the Act, the expression employed is “compensation”; but he said, his clients were seeking not compensation but damages under the Compensation for Injuries Act. He therefore submitted that the plaintiff's claim was not caught by Section 4 (3) of the Act.


Further, it was submitted by him that the workman had received no compensation up to the time of his death; and that in any event the period of limitation in respect of the plaintiff's action is four years from the death of the deceased.


It was also urged by Mr. Marcus that assuming that assuming that compensation could said to have been received by the workman, the one year would run from 20th February, 1985, that is from the date of death of the deceased. Mr. Marcus also submitted that the word “adult” in section 4 (3) of the Act should be taken into account in applying Section 2 (2) of the Act to Section 4 (3) of the Act.


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