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Life Fund lawsuit listed for trial

Published: 
Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The United National Congress (UNC) lawsuit against the Children’s Life Fund Authority over its refusal to provide funding for treatment of two children suffering from the same genetic blood disorder is set to go on trial on September 21.

High Court judge Nadia Kangaloo set the date during a case management conference at the Port-of-Spain High Court on Monday.

During the hearing, Opposition Senator Gerald Ramdeen, who is representing fellow Senator Wayne Sturge under whose name the lawsuit was filed, complained over the delay of the authority in filing affidavits in reply to the lawsuit.

“The pre-action protocol letter was sent in April and the State is yet to file its affidavits,” Ramdeen said as he described the situation as unacceptable.

In response, Senior Counsel Reginald Armour, representing the authority, said that the delays came about because he and his team had to investigate and receive comprehensive responses to issues raised in the lawsuit.

Armour said he planned to meet with the authority’s chairman Dr Aritza Fernandes this week to finalise the affidavits, which would be filed on Friday.

In the claim, the Opposition party is contending that the authority acted unreasonably and illegally when it refused applications for funding made by the families of four-year-old Shannen Luke and five-year-old Terrance Chandoo.

Luke and Chandoo were diagnosed with Beta Thalassemia Major when they were less than one-year-old.

Even with their lawsuit pending Luke and Chandoo underwent the hemopoietic cell transfusion (bone marrow transplant) at Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital in Rome, Italy, this month and are still there recovering with their families.

The applications were dismissed on the ground that the children’s families had already paid €158,000 each for the treatment when they made their applications and the authority does not provide reimbursements.

However, the UNC is claiming that the authority’s board is mistaken as Section 9 of the legislation which established the fund and the authority in 2010, allowed for reimbursement payments.

The party is also challenging the authority’s claim that the children are not entitled to funding as their condition is non-life threatening.

The hearing came one week after the authority blanked another application from the family of four-year-old Haleema Mohammed, who is suffering from a similar condition. The family has since been able to raise the $400,000 required for an operation in India scheduled for early September after corporate sponsors intervened following reports of Mohammed’s plight.

The UNC is also being represented by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, under whose tenure as prime minister the authority was formed.