Former reservist sues for R1.7m in damages
over gunshot wound
A FORMER police reservist is suing the minister for safety and security and
fellow reservist Eugene Klein for R1.7 million in damages, alleging that Klein
negligently shot him while under the minister’s command and supervision.
But the minister and Klein claim that he cannot sue because he has received a
Workmen’s Compensation payout. However, this has been refuted on the grounds
that reservists are not employed by the minister. Former Milnerton police reservist
John Sterris claimed the minister therefore did not qualify as an employer as defined in thee Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act and that his claim
was not barred by the act.
In papers before the Cape High Court, Sterris claimed that Klein negligently shot him
in his hip and buttocks at the Cape Town railway station in March, 2000. At the time,
Sterris had been preparing to go on duty. In addition, he alleges that the minister was
negligent in failing to put in place control mechanisms for the handling of firearms.
He also claims that the minister made a firearm available to Klein when he knew that
he was not qualified to handle it with reasonable safety.
Sterris claimed in papers that one of the minister’s employees had handed a loaded
firearm to Klein without telling him the weapon was loaded. As a result of the incident,
Sterris sustained a gunshot wound to his pelvis, and bullet particles in his right buttock.
He suffers pain in his right leg. His claim comprises damages for loss of income,
medical expenses and general damages, such as pain, suffering and loss of
amenities of life.
The City Community Patrol Board, which employs reservists, has also been cited as a defendant. But the minister and Klein have claimed that Sterris’s injuries were occupational injuries referred to in the act. They further claimed that he had received money from the Workmen’s Compensation Commission.
A 1999 agreement between the department of safety and security, the Western Cape government and the City Community Patrol Board – which has been out before the
court – states that police reservists would provide community patrol services under a
“rent-a-cop” scheme and would not in fact be employed by the minister while they
were at work.