The case at hand deals with the plaintiff’s contraction of Tuberculosis while being incarcerated by the state. The predicament involved in this cases brings up many issues pertaining to whether the state can be liable for the causation of tuberculosis while a plaintiff was in their correctional facility and whether the state has unlimited liability pertaining to the defendant’s contraction of tuberculosis, (“Dudley Lee v. Minister for Correctional Services,” 2012). This paper will conduct a discussion on the issues of causation and unlimited state liability and assess whether the state in fact caused the plaintiff’s contraction of tuberculosis and if that causation did in fact make the unlimitedly liable.
Commencing causation, one of the principal issues in the case at hand is whether the state’s failure to take the proper preventative and precautionary measures by corrective services did lead to the plaintiff contracting TB? When considering the element of causation in a tort claim, the court looks to common law principles relating to the nature of the chain of causation, (“Dudley Lee v. Minister for Correctional Services,” 2012). If it can be shown that there is an established link between an unfavorable or damaging outcome to the plaintiff and the action by the defendant, then there is a possible argument for establishing that the state’s actions or lack thereof, did in fact play a role in causing the plaintiff’s contraction of Tuberculosis.
The other aspect of causation that needs to be established in the case at hand is how one can establish that causation is a valid legal argument when discussing the contraction of disease. The chain of causation theory was historically used to deal with the theory of negligence that was more tangible than the contraction of diseases. Surely, the state had a duty to protect the plaintiff while in prison from harm while they were serving their sentence, (“Dudley Lee v. Minister for Correctional Services,” 2012). What needs to be established is whether the state breached that duty when the plaintiff contracted tuberculosis and whether the breach of the defendant’s duty caused the plaintiff to be damaged by contracting tuberculosis, (“Dudley Lee v. Minister for Correctional Services,” 2012).
What is distinct about this case is that the causation argument is dealing with disease and it is difficult legally to stipulate that a given defendant caused a disease such as tuberculosis because of the nature that one contracts tuberculosis. Thus, it is imperative to have an understanding of how tuberculosis is contracted in order to equate if the state is potentially liable. Historically speaking, the world has seen many outbreaks of tuberculosis in the wake of political and natural disasters due to the lack of infrastructure that exists, which causes the bacteria to be present, (McIntosh, James, 2016). The way that this bacteria spreads is from groups of people that are very close to one another for a significant period of time, (McIntosh, James, 2016). This is important to note because if it can be shown that the conditions were an environment that could give rise to tuberculosis, then it is possible that the plaintiff does in fact have a very strong case for causation against the government, (“Dudley Lee v. Minister for Correctional Services,” 2012). In the case at hand, the court had evidence of the prison guards being aware of inmates having tuberculosis and not separating those individuals from the other inmates, thus, exposing the plaintiff to be able to contract tuberculosis, (“Dudley Lee v. Minister for Correctional Services,” 2012). Thus, it is highly likely that it could be shown that there is a sufficient case for causation of the plaintiff contracting tuberculosis by the state’s negligence.
The next issue to discuss is whether the state has unlimited liability in the sense that the plaintiff was imprisoned in error and had his constitutional rights violated, (“Dudley Lee v. Minister for Correctional Services,” 2012). This issue was revisited in the appeal because it was dismissed in the earlier case and is absolutely relevant because had the plaintiff not been imprisoned in error, they would not have been subject to the exposure of tuberculosis that the prison guards were aware of, (“Dudley Lee v. Minister for Correctional Services,” 2012). In the instance of this case, the state does have unlimited liability that is twofold. First, the state has the liability for the plaintiff contracting tuberculosis while in the state-run correctional facility, (“Dudley Lee v. Minister for Correctional Services,” 2012). Second, the state has liability for imprisoning the plaintiff in error, which gave rise to the stripping of his liberty and his medical disease, (“Dudley Lee v. Minister for Correctional Services,” 2012). It is for this reason that the state is liable for damages to the plaintiff in the effort to “make the plaintiff whole again” or to return the plaintiff to how they were with capital before the injury occurred.
This case brought up many interesting issues pertaining to the relation between international human rights and tort law. The reason for this is that clearly this correctional facility in South Africa does violate human rights treaties prescribed by the United Nations. What is fascinating is to see how the national law of South Africa would deal with this case in order to grant the plaintiff the damages that they have rightfully earned in this case. Granted, South Africa has had a complicated history as a country, but it is also interesting to see their legal system’s link to both the British and American notions of common law pertaining to tort law.
“Dudley Lee v. Minister For Correctional Services.” Constitutional Court of South Africa. 2012. Web. 3 May 2016.
McIntosh, James. “Tuberculosis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments.” MNT. 2015. Web. 3 May 2016.