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Thabazimbi Municipality to Pay R8.9m to Blinded Trophy Hunter

Published January 01, 2024
7 months ago

In a landmark ruling, the Thabazimbi municipality in Limpopo has been ordered to pay almost R9 million in damages to Hendrik Badenhorst, a trophy hunter who was tragically blinded in one eye after being struck by a stone ejected from a municipality worker's grass cutter.

The harrowing incident that changed Badenhorst's life occurred in 2011. While driving through Thabazimbi, he was rendered unconscious and later awoke to find his life irrevocably altered. The injury not only left him blind in one eye but also unable to perform basic tasks, drive, or continue his hunting business which had been successfully catering to international clients since roughly 2000.

Despite an attempt to re-engage in the hunting industry and subsequent "sympathetic" employment efforts, by 2013, Badenhorst had found himself without an income due to the severity of his injuries. His situation was compounded by the dismissal from a game trader because he could not fulfil his job duties, leading to multiple failed attempts at employment thereafter.

Given no choice but to seek justice and remuneration for his life-changing injuries, Badenhorst sued the Thabazimbi municipality. Acknowledging their responsibility, they initially agreed to pay him R300,000, but the inadequacy of this amount in covering his sustained loss of earnings and incurred medical expenses led to further legal contention.

The determination of additional responsibilities and quantifying further damages took the parties to the Pretoria high court. In a ruling that underscored the conviction of the judiciary to uphold justice, Acting Judge Thembile Joyini deemed the municipality accountable for Badenhorst's comprehensive losses, awarding a total compensation of R8.9 million based on expert evidence.

Expert witnesses, including occupational therapists, industrial psychologists, doctors, actuaries, and accountants, detailed the gravity of Badenhorst's condition and its impact on his earning capacity. Their assessments, uncontested by the defendant's own experts, depicted a man who, given his limited experience and the extent of his injuries, now faced a future devoid of his past earning potential.

In a scathing reproach, Judge Joyini criticized the municipality's legal strategy, which necessitated the cross-examination of certain expert witnesses, calling it a "waste of court time". He subsequently ordered that the municipality cover all legal costs associated with the needless opposition of expert testimonies.

The R8.9 million awarded to Badenhorst represents the culmination of expert-driven calculations detailing the extensive economic losses suffered from the accident, including loss of future earnings, medical expenses, and additional costs.

Badenhorst's ordeal is a stark reminder of the unforeseen risks present in daily life and the legal avenues available for individuals seeking remedy in the wake of negligence-induced tragedy. The Thabazimbi municipality's accountability in this case sets a precedent for other institutions to ensure the safety and well-being of the public is not compromised by their operations.

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