Paria tells surviving diver’s lawyers: Our approved doctors may provide medical care

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo: The five divers employed by a private company hired by Paria Trading Co Ltd to do maintenance work on a 36-inch pipeline in one of the last photos taken at Pointe-a-Pierre on Friday. From left are, Christopher Boodram, who survived, Kazim Ali Jr, Yusuf Henry, Rishi Nagassar and Fyzal Kurban.

PARIA Fuel Trading Company says it believes it bears no legal responsibility for any of the injuries suffered by Christopher Boodram, the only diver hired by LMCS Ltd who survived an incident on February 25 at its berth in Pointe-a-Pierre.

But Paria may be prepared to consider giving him medical assistance using doctors it has selected or approved.

On April 20, Paria’s attorneys responded to a letter sent by attorneys representing Boodram and Vanessa Kussie, widow of diver Rishi Nagassar.

Nagassar, Yusuf Henry, Fyzal Kurban, and Kazim Ali Jr died in the 30-inch seabed pipeline. The five were all divers with LMCS.

Attorney Gretel Baird, along with Gilbert Peterson, SC, Jason Mootoo, Thane Pierre, and Sebastian Peterson, is representing Paria.

In the response, she pointed out that at the time of the incident, Boodram’s employer was LMCS and when he was injured, he was working under LMCS’ direction and supervision.

Baird also said LMCS expressly contracted with Paria that it would instruct its personnel on the safety regulations; provide and maintain all safety equipment; supply adequate, competent, and certified/ licensed labour for the specific job functions; full-time supervision; materials, tools/equipment; ensure tools and equipment were in good working order; and ensure its tools and equipment were inspected before each use to ensure they were fit for purpose and had no defects.

But, she said, “I am instructed that while Paria is of the view that it bears no legal responsibility for any injuries sustained by Mr Boodram, without any admission of liability on its part and purely as a gesture of goodwill, it may be prepared to consider providing assistance to Mr Boodram through the provision of medical treatment using doctors selected or approved by it.”

Baird asked for a description of Boodram’s current medical condition; all medical reports prepared; and whether he has made any request to his employer, LMCS. She also asked for a copy of the request, if it was made in writing, and LMCS’ response.

On March 22, Boodram’s attorneys, Anand Ramlogan, SC, and Dr Che Dindial, wrote to Paria asking if the company would pay Boodram’s medical expenses and the costs of hiring an independent international expert. They also made 23 requests for information from Paria on the incident, which Baird said would be responded to separately.

On the request to hire an international expert, Baird said it was “unreasonable” and was declined for several reasons.

“Firstly, as mentioned above, Paria does not consider itself liable to your clients for the events of 25th February 2022.

“Secondly, assuming your clients desire the services of an expert for the purpose of commencing civil proceedings against Paria, it is customary for parties to legal proceedings to retain and meet the costs of their own experts.

“Thirdly, the reports in the press concerning the commission of inquiry suggest that the commission will secure independent expert advice. Your clients will therefore receive the benefit of this advice once the work of the commission is under way.”

She also chastised the attorneys for making “several false and/or misleading statements” on Paria’s conduct on the day of the tragedy and afterwards in their March 22 letter, as well as noting it was a “pity that most of your letter was spent castigating Paria with false, uninformed, misleading and inflammatory allegations, instead of providing the elementary and essential support for your client’s request for payment by Paria of his medical expenses.”

Baird also said Paria did not propose to respond to the statements in the letter, further describing them as “inflammatory, largely uninformed and plainly designed for media consumption.”

She said if Boodram’s legal team chose to engage in the relevant pre-action protocol process, Paria will address them at the appropriate time.

On April 5, Dindial wrote to LMCS’s managing director Kazim Ali, seeking disclosure of certain information as well as to find out whether the company could confirm whether it would offer any financial assistance to Boodram and Kussie.

“Mr Boodram is at present receiving medical treatment and unable to earn an income. He is severely scarred psychologically by the incident.

“Ms Kussie remains without the support of the deceased who was the sole breadwinner for her family and is in dire financial straits.”

Dindial said the lawyers were instructed that LMCS had promised some form of ex-gratia financial support and wanted to know if this was still the position.

“Our clients have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with LMCS before the incident and it is hoped that this can continue.”

Dindial also asked for LMCS’s insurance policies that covered its employees, including Boodram and Nagassar, for injury and loss of life arising from work done for the company; a copy of its workmen compensation policy; all post-mortem reports obtained privately for Nagassar; the work permit granted by Paria for the February 25 job; correspondence between Paria and LMCS from the day of the tragedy to date; and the contractor/terms of employment between LMCS, Nagassar, and Boodram.

He also asked for all statements given by LMCS workers on the incident; all expert reports obtained by international diving personnel on the incident; payslips/records of employment for Boodram and Nagassar; a copy of emergency policies LMCS has in place for delta-P accidents or those similar to what took place on February 25; LMCS’ contract with Paria for the maintenance work on the pipeline; and details of the primary and secondary plugs used in the hyperbaric chamber close to the riser that was being replaced.

“This traumatic ordeal of this life-threatening experience has left our clients in a state of unimaginable grief and distress,” Dindial wrote.

Newsday was told LMCS has yet to respond to Dindial’s letter. Up to late yesterday, LMCS’s attorney Gerald Ramdeen could not be reached by phone.