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Supreme Court dismisses appeal from High Court, and affirms dismissal of claim by nurse for damages for personal injury arising from an assault by a patient suffering from mental health difficulties who was being reintegrated into the community, on the grounds that: (a) the trial judge had been best placed to see and hear the witnesses of fact; (b) an appellate court should be slow to disturb inferences of fact drawn from the primary facts as found; and (c) in the instant case the trial judge had had credible evidence to support his conclusion that the care of the patient had not fallen short of the appropriate standard of care.
Claim by nurse against hospital - role of nurse in helping mentally handicapped patients fit into community - ‘house parent’ - patient with difficult behavioural history - incident where nurse had to restrain patient - assault of nurse by patient - whether patient should have been returned to home environment - finding by trial judge that there had been no negligence - appeal from judge sitting alone - verdict as to issues of fact and the inferences to be drawn from the facts as found - whether to be disturbed by appellate court - appellate court unable to see or hear witnesses - whether credible evidence to support findings of fact - whether appellate court able to draw different inferences from findings of fact - conclusions of law to be drawn from primary facts and inferences - importance of a clear statement from the trial judge of his findings of primary fact, inferences to be drawn and conclusions.
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