Civil Appeal No. 64 of 2009, decided by the Supreme Court of India on 9-01-2009.
The complainant had filed a petition before the Kerala State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (for short, 'the State Commission') for award of compensation to the tune of Rs.13,96,500 by alleging that due to negligence of the respondent - Cochin Hospital and doctors, he had lost vision in one eye and was forced to seek voluntary retirement from service. He claimed Rs.13,000 as cost of treatment, Rs.7,500 towards transportation charges, Rs.4,32,000 as loss of income due to voluntary retirement, Rs.1,44,000 which he would have earned by continuing in service, Rs.2,00,000 by way of damages for pain and suffering, Rs.5,00,000 by way of damages for mental agony to himself, wife and children and Rs.1,00,000 as damages for disfigurement. The Complaint was contested by the hospital by asserting that it was not a case of medical negligence and that the claim made by the appellant was exorbitant.
The State Commission, after considering the pleadings of the parties and record produced by them, held that the doctors who performed the surgery are not guilty of negligence and the loss of vision may have been caused due to infection. In the opinion of the State Commission, the hospital authorities may have been negligent in maintaining hygiene and this may have led to infection. The State Commission then observed that the complainant has not been able to prove that he suffered any pecuniary loss and awarded Rs.40,000 as compensation, Rs.5,000 towards expenditure and Rs.1,000 by way of cost. On appeal, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission enhanced the compensation from Rs.40,000 to Rs.1,00,000 and cost of treatment from Rs.5,000 to Rs.13,000.
In appeal the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India observed that undisputedly, the appellant suffered loss of vision in one eye due to negligence of the hospital authorities to maintain hygiene, which led to infection. This finding of the State Commission was not challenged by the respondents before the National Commission and, therefore, the same will be deemed to have become final. The disability suffered by the appellant is of permanent nature. The appellant, who was in government service, was forced to take pre-mature retirement nine years before the date of superannuation apparently because he could not effectively discharge his duties. At the relevant time his salary was Rs.6400. On retirement, the appellant was given pension at the rate of Rs.2500 per month. Thus, the difference in salary and retirement benefit was Rs.3,900 per month. After taking into consideration the expected increase in salary, the appellant claimed compensation of Rs.4,32,000 in lieu of the loss of salary. The respondents have not disputed the fact that the appellant had sought voluntary retirement and consequently, he suffered pecuniary loss.
Held, the monetary loss suffered by the appellant furnishes valid basis for award of enhanced compensation to him. The management of Cochin Hospital was directed to pay enhanced compensation of Rs.4,32,000 to the appellant in addition to enhanced cost of treatment i.e. Rs.13,000. besides cost of litigation Rs.50,000.