Mosquito Bite In Hospital Can’t Be Termed An Accident In India: Calcutta HC

KOLKATA : A death that resulted from a mosquito bite in hospital couldn’t be called an “accident” in India that would be eligible for an accident insurance claim, the Calcutta High Court ruled on Wednesday.

The court turned down a woman’s plea for the death of her son – from dengue developed after a mosquito bite, apart from other complications – to be treated as an accident because it was “least expected” in the sanitised environs of a hospital.

Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya was hearing an appeal filed by Chitra Mukherjee, whose son Chayan – an Army man – died of dengue while being treated for complications, including kidney disease, after knee surgery at the Command Hospital in Alipore in December 2021. Eight days before his death, he had developed dengue, with the death certificate mentioning both dengue and end-stage renal disease as cause of death.

Chitra filed an accident insurance with the United India Insurance Company but got turned down in September the following year on the ground that the cause of death was non-accidental. This had prompted her to move court. Chitra had argued that the mosquito bite should be treated as an accident as it occurred in a hospital, where it was unexpected. She had also said that insurance policies of Army personnel should be treated differently from that of civilians.Justice Bhattacharya said the insurance company’s refusal could not be seen as “arbitrary or unreasonable”, as neither the terms of the insurance policy, nor legal precedents “permit interpreting any disease caused by a mosquito bite as an accident.”

Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya on Wednesday said a mosquito bite in a hospital could not be called an accident. She was hearing a plea by Chitra Mukherjee, whose son Chayan, an Army man, had died in December 2021 while being treated at the Command Hospital in Alipore for post-surgery complications. Eight days prior to his death, Chayan had developed dengue after a mosquito bit him at the hospital.

“Suffering a mosquito bite in the sanitised confines of a hospital may be an unwanted and unwarranted incident at best; it is not something which is fortuitous, such as to startle the sufferer (the ‘bitten’) as being unexpected,” the judge said. She also referred to a 2019 Supreme Court judgment in a near-similar issue. In that instance, a bench of justices D Y Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta had turned down a National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission order which had interpreted a mosquito bite to be an accident. In that case, a person based in Barasat, who used to work as a tea garden manager in Mozambique, had died in November 2012 from malaria. The insurance company had turned down his family’s claims.

In that instance, the Supreme Court had mentioned the frequency of malaria in Mozambique, which accounts for 5% of malaria cases globally, and where one in three people get the disease.

“In light of these statistics, the illness of encephalitis malaria through a mosquito bite cannot be considered as an accident. It was neither unexpected nor unforeseen,” the bench had observed.

Justice Bhattacharya referred to this judgment and concluded that a mosquito bite could not be considered an accident in India. “It cannot be said that mosquito bites and resulting diseases are unforeseen events… to a resident of Kolkata,” she said.

The court mentioned the facts were “a sad reflection” of preventives used by a hospital to repel vector-borne diseases, but added that it could not be said that finding mosquitoes, even in the most sanitised of interiors, was “a startling exception and not the rule.”

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