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CORONAVIRUS/Court rejects state compensation claim over toddler's COVID-19 death

11/11/2023 09:00 PM
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En En's father. CNA file photo
En En's father. CNA file photo

Taipei, Nov. 11 (CNA) The New Taipei District Court has recently upheld its rejection of a request for state compensation from the parents of a 2-year-old boy who died from complications related to COVID-19 following an 81-minute wait for an ambulance last April, the lawyer of the plaintiff said Saturday.

The lawyer, Wang Miao-hua (王妙華), said the court has determined that the previous ruling it issued in July was in accordance with legal provisions, and that the appeal from En En's (恩恩) parents was "neither justifiable nor legal."

Wang didn't specify the date of the final ruling; she only mentioned that the parents received the court document on Oct. 30.

Since the case was handled in a small claims trial, it will not reach a higher court, Wang said on behalf of En En's family, adding that the father, surnamed Lin (林), was disappointed in the outcome.

Lin's purpose in bringing the case to court was to seek the truth, and having exhausted all legal avenues now, he respected the ruling but hoped the tragedy will not be repeated, according to Wang.

In the first ruling, the court rejected the claim on the grounds that Lin had not provided medical data to establish a causal relationship between his son's death and government officials' handling of the ambulance request.

For a claim of state compensation to be established, the case should involve government officials infringing the freedom and rights of the people through intentional or negligent actions or failure to carry out their duties, the court said.

Lin argued in his appeal that the family is entitled to state compensation since it can adequately prove the harm suffered based on "rule of thumb and social norms."

In this case, the severe pain they endured had constituted a substantial loss, according to Lin, who also said the court failed to take that into consideration in the first ruling.

Still, the court decided that Lin's points did not stand up and dismissed the appeal without oral argument.

Lin's son was the first child in Taiwan to die from COVID-19 on April 19, 2022. He developed severe COVID-19 symptoms and fell into a coma at home in Zhonghe District, New Taipei on April 14, just as coronavirus cases in the country were beginning to surge.

According to the results of an investigation into the case by the now-disbanded Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), which were released on July 5 last year, En En's mother first called the city's Fire Department to request an ambulance for her son at 5:59 p.m. on April 14.

The New Taipei government dispatched an ambulance at 7:06 p.m. and the ambulance arrived at En En's home at 7:20 p.m. and at the hospital at 7:27 p.m., according to the report.

According to the phone records between the city's Fire Department and the Department of Health, the Zhonghe District Health Center and other agencies related to their handling of the ambulance request, the Fire Department was not able to contact the Department of Health, which served at the time as the city's ambulance dispatch center, to arrange an ambulance until 6:25 p.m.

The phone records were leaked to the media in June last year, following Lin's failed requests the previous month for access to them, prompting the CECC to investigate the case.

The hospital said at that time that the boy died of brain stem encephalitis resulting from septicemia that was triggered by the COVID-19 infection, attributing the cause of his death to the rapid deterioration of his condition after he developed severe symptoms.

However, medical authorities have never determined whether a faster response to the ambulance request might have saved the boy's life.

In November last year, Lin filed a compensation lawsuit against the New Taipei city government, the city's Fire Department and the Department of Health, after his demand for a symbolic NT$1 (US$0.031) in compensation from each of the three agencies was rejected by the government in September of the same year.

At that time, New Taipei authorities said its team, assessing Lin's compensation requests, found that the agencies had made every effort to save En En in accordance with the epidemic control measures and were therefore not deemed negligent in their actions.

(By Sunrise Huang, Shih Hsiu-chuan and Lee Hsin-Yin)


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