Rugby League star’s family to receive compensation following his wrongful death in hospital

Published Date: May 10, 2019

The High Court in Pretoria has ruled that Gauteng’s current Health MEC, Dr Gwen Ramokgopa, must pay for all damages sustained as a result of a local rugby league player’s death at the Steve Biko Hospital.

On 18 September 2015, Zacharius Johannes De Lange had sustained a spinal cord injury whilst playing a rugby league game for the Silverbacks against the Predators. Medics, present at the time of the incident, transferred the injured De Lange to the Steve Biko Hospital by ambulance.

Following De Lange’s admission at the Steve Biko Hospital, he was diagnosed as an incomplete quadriplegic. Incomplete Quadriplegia occurs when there is damage to the cervical spinal cord. Medical personnel at Steve Biko scheduled De Lange for a cervical decompression on 20 September 2015, in an attempt to reduce the compression.

But De Lange developed significant respiratory dysfunction and eventually passed away on 21 September 2015, from cardiac arrest, despite attempts to resuscitate him.

The family believed that De Lange’s death was preventable and a summons was subsequently issued against the MEC for Health in the Gauteng Province, out of the High Court of South Africa, Gauteng Division, Pretoria.

In expert reports filed by Adams & Adams, it was alleged that the standard of medical care, treatment, management and monitoring of De Lange fell way below the skill, care and diligence one could have expected from medical personnel in a similar situation.

Despite the MEC, Dr Ramokgopa, denying the alleged negligence, and appointing two counsel to defend the matter, Judge Rangata ruled this week that the MEC is liable to compensate De Lange’s wife and two children for 100% of the damages they sustained following De Lange’s passing.

A quantum trial date, to determine the damages due, will now need to be obtained.

Jean-Paul Rudd
Partner | Attorney

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