12 February 2018

Liberia: Health Minister Designate Requests Change of Venue in U.S.$6 Million Lawsuit

Monrovia — The legal counsel of health minister-designate Dr. Wilhemina Jallah has filed a motion for change of venue in the action of damage for wrongful death filed against her by the family of a woman who reportedly died during childbirth her hospital.

Dr. Jallah, her institution - Hope for Women International Incorporated -, Lorraine Cooper and S. Nael are facing a US$6 million lawsuit for the "wrongful death" of Pastor Desiree Fahnbulleh.

Pastor Fahnbulleh was undergoing a caesarian section and died as a result of shock, according to an autopsy report.

In the motion requesting change of venue, Dr. Jallah's lawyer said the action is still pending before the court, but there are publications of the case in the media.

The legal counsel said the publication has the propensity to influence the prospective jurors and that it will be very difficult for the trial to be free, fair and transparent.

The legal Counsel of Dr. Jallah attached FPA news story captioned "Liberia Dental Council finds Hope for Women Health Center Liable for Wrongful Death."

According to her, the motion is for jurors to independently decide and not bring out a verdict that will return on the basis of evidence rather than facts from the media.

The motion asserts that the media publications are "detrimental and injurious" to free and impartial trial and that based on the publications in Montserrado County, which has the highest reading public, it may influence the trial jury.

Section 4.5 of the civil procedure law allows "Change of place of trial". It provides that if there is a reason to believe that an impartial trial cannot be held in the proper county, magisterial area, town or city, a court should grant a motion for the change of the place of the trial of any given case."

The motion said based on the publications by the media "they are convinced that they wouldn't have an impartial trial which would deny them justice".

The Liberia Medical and Dental Council in its findings found the hospital liable and requested that Dr. Cooper, the nurse anesthetist be suspended for six months.

Dr. Jallah was also ordered by the ethics committee to employ the service of an OBGYN specialist as a consultant to the health facility.

"Dr. Jallah be warned that subsequent action will lead to suspension of her license, present to the council at the end of 2017 certifications of continuous professional development in ethics covering topics as negligence, communications with parties and patient's relatives and delivering bad news."

In response to the motion for change of venue, the Fahnbulleh family said the issue raised by Dr. Jallah lacks substantive and legal basis.

The family added that FrontPageAfrica newspaper publication did not work prejudice to the interest of Dr. Jallah (movant), but was (Movant) fairly quoted.

"Respondent (Fahnbulleh) says the article attached to the motion was taken from the internet, the vast majority of Liberians do not have access to internet facility, therefore, cannot be said that the publication was widely, circulated and therefore cannot constitute ground for change of venue."

Larry Fahnbulleh, husband of the deceased and head of the complaint, said the incident occurred in Montserrado and the witnesses and records are in Montserrado.

He said it would, therefore, work untold hardship to the parties if the trial is taken out of Montserrado.

The Fahnbullehs are requesting the court to overrule, set aside and quash the Dr. Jallah's motion for change of venue.

Recently, the Fahnbullehs expressed dismay in the appointment of Dr. Jallah as Health Minister and called on President George Weah to rescind the nomination.

They accused Dr. Jallah of exhibiting "unorthodox practices that disqualified her from becoming the next health minister.

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