The family of Denishar Woods, an 11-year-old girl left with brain damage after an electric shock from a garden tap, could be eligible for millions of dollars in compensation if the Department of Housing is found to have failed to provide the family with safe and adequate housing.
Perth barrister Theo Lampropoulos said the family could be entitled to a substantial payment for “pain and suffering” caused by the accident at the government-owned property.
Mr Lampropoulos recently represented a family that successfully sued Princess Margaret Hospital for a payout expected to reach into the multiple millions after their daughter was left suffering cerebral palsy after being treated by the hospital for burns.
“The young girl has the main claim but if any family member suffered what is called nervous shock, which is a recognised psychiatric condition, pain and suffering … [they may have a claim] if they can prove negligence,” he said.
Mr Lampropoulos said the family could also sue for loss of income if they were working, due to the trauma of witnessing the girl being violently shocked by a powerful electric surge.
“If the child has suffered serious brain damage so that she requires ongoing care – when she otherwise would have grown up to be independent – it can go into the millions of dollars,” he said.
Mr Lampropoulos stressed the amount of damages to which the family was entitled depended on the extent of the brain damage Denishar had suffered and what kind of ongoing support she would need.
The amount of damages could increase considerably if she ends up requiring 24-hour care from a nurse or medical staff, or if a family member needed to become the child’s full-time carer.
Offer of one month’s rent
Denishar’s mother, Lacey Harrison, said the Department of Housing had offered her family up to one month’s free rent, which would enable them to save $800 to put towards a car to help the family.
She said her family was overwhelmed and scared by what they had been through.
“Come night-time the fear of what’s happened just overwhelms us – it’s repeating itself, it replays like a live movie. It comes in waves,” she said.
“You can’t [buy] a car for $800 … it’s only going to be one or two weeks that we can hire a car for. This is long term, what is happening to my daughter.”
The family was given a $10 voucher from the hospital to help them meet the costs of visiting Denishar but Ms Harrison said the costs were adding up.
“It’s taking its time, it’s taking its toll because the kids having to catch trains and buses … I am also putting fuel in my mum’s car. Now I am down to nothing,” she said.
Denishar was hit with a surge of up to 250 volts of electricity, which is five times the amount that can cause serious damage to the human body.
Fear remains after accident
Ms Harrison said she was now scared to turn on a light switch in her home.
“I went to touch a light and I sort of just jumped back thinking it is going to hurt me,” she said.
“You don’t want things to be harming you every time you just go to touch something.”
She said compensation was not something she was thinking of yet.
“It’s something I can’t deal with at the moment … I know it’s gonna be done,” she said.
“But I just don’t have the time to sit down and start doing anything like that. My devoted time is with my Denishar.”