In what The Mercury calls a damages claim with a twist, Nicolaas de Jager (66) – who claimed millions in damages against the Netcare group after he went blind in one eye following an operation – has raised a constitutional challenge after the hospital group had a private investigator monitoring him.

De Jager objected in the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) about Netcare wanting to introduce the evidence of the private investigator in a bid to prove that De Jager’s eye was in fact not hampering his ability to lead a normal life.

De Jager submitted that the evidence of the private investigator was irrelevant, immaterial and could neither prove nor disprove the extent of his damages.

If anything, it was argued on his behalf, the hospital group violated his constitutional right to privacy.

He thus wanted the report by the private investigator to be excluded as evidence in his damages case.

In the opening to his judgment, Judge Mandlenkosi Motha questioned whether programmes such as Uyajola 99 and Cheaters, to mention but a few, fell foul of section 14 of the Constitution, in their effort to ‘uncover the elusive and sometimes illusive truth’.

The Mercury report says De Jager underwent a successful right eye phacoemulsification cataract extraction in 2014.

Shortly afterwards, he underwent an unsuccessful left eye phacoemulsification cataract extraction at the hospital.

He subsequently contracted Toxic Anterior Segment Syndrome, which resulted in blindness in his left eye. The question of merits was settled at 100% in favour of the plaintiff.

Subsequently, Netcare made two interim payments to the tune of R4.5m to the plaintiff for damages claimed. De Jager later upped his initial damages claim to around R25m.

His claim included compensation for medical expenses, loss of earnings and earning capacity, as well as general damages.

The hospital then decided to obtain the services of a private investigator, to ‘prove’ that the damages were not as severe as De Jager claimed.

Motha, in his judgment, gave an account of how the private investigator obtained a picture of De Jager on social media and how he then followed and observed him for some time.

The aim of this is to afford any interested party an opportunity to be admitted to the proceedings as a friend of the court.

After 20 days, the court will issue a directive on the way forward, if there are any takers.

If there are none, the court will proceed to finalise the judgment, Motha said.

Full report in The Mercury