Chin Swey Min a patient suing by his wife and next friend Lim Siew Lee v Nor Nizar Bin Mohamed

JurisdictionSingapore
JudgeChing Sann AR
Judgment Date13 February 2004
Neutral Citation[2004] SGHC 27
Published date18 February 2004
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Plaintiff CounselDavid Ling Koon Hean (Ling Das and Partners)
Defendant CounselKaruppan Chettiar, Renuka Chettiar and Ganesh S Ramanathan (Karuppan Chettiar and Partners)

13 February 2004

Ching Sann, Assistant Registrar:

Undisputed facts

1 The plaintiff was 38 years of age at the date of the accident on 5 March 1999. A Malaysian, he was then working in Singapore on a work permit and was employed as a supervisor with a construction company. Interlocutory judgment was entered for the plaintiff at 90% liability against the defendant on 7 June 2002.

The plaintiff’s claim

2 The plaintiff claimed for damages under the following heads:

General damages

(i) Pain and suffering $ 284,000.00

(ii) Loss of future earnings $ 619,115.04

(iii) Future medical care $ 45,000.00

(iv) Future home care RM 202,149.60

Special damages

(v) Pre-trial loss of earnings $ 154,320.89

(vi) Medical expenses in Singapore $ 28,645.70

(vii) Medical expenses in Malaysia RM 5,591.75

(viii) Accommodation expenses $ 3,837.49

(ix) Transport and expenses $ 3,200.00

Decision

3 Having heard all the evidence and reviewed submissions from counsel for both parties, the following award is made:

General damages

Pain and suffering

4 The plaintiff’s claim of $284,000.00 for pain and suffering was divided into the following heads:

(a) Severe head injury $ 120,000.00

(b) Fractured right skull zygoma

and lateral wall of right orbit $ 25,000.00

(c) Fracture of right clavicle and scapula $ 22,000.00

(d) Deep neck lacerations and abrasions/ $ 20,000.00

scarring on face, chest, thigh, ankle, elbow

(e) Pulmonary (lung) contusion with right $ 15,000.00

haemothorax

(f) Fracture of right 1st, 2nd and 3rd ribs $ 7,000.00

(g) Laceration of liver $ 7,000.00

(h) Degloving injury to right forearm $ 10,000.00

(i) Stable fracture of cervical C6, C7 $ 18,000.00

spinous processes

(j) Brachial plexus injury $ 20,000.00

(k) Loss of amenities $ 20,000.00

5 On item (a), defence counsel submitted that an appropriate award of damages would be $35,000.00. I was of the view that this amount was far too low in light of the fact that these injuries were very serious and had resulted in the plaintiff’s general memory being assessed to be within the mental deficient range with erratic concentration, poor memory, poor new learning and personality changes. Indeed, the plaintiff had been declared by a court to be mentally unsound and his financial affairs were now being managed by his wife, Mdm Lim Siew Lee. Although defence counsel had cited several authorities in support of their submission on quantum for this item, I did not find these authorities to be helpful as, at their worst, the injuries suffered by the plaintiffs in defence counsel’s authorities did not come close to the degree of mental impairment suffered by the present plaintiff. For example, in Er Hung Boon v Law Shyan En (unreported), that plaintiff had suffered only from memory impairment, while in Pang Koi Fa v Lim Djoe Phing [1993] 3 SLR 317 that plaintiff had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder resulting in nervous shock. By contrast, I found the authorities cited by plaintiff’s counsel, such as Peh Diana v Tan Miang Lee [1991] SLR 341 to be more helpful in this regard. However, that said, and even after taking into account inflation, I completely failed to see the basis for plaintiff’s counsel’s submission of $120,000.00 for item (a), let alone a further $20,000.00 under item (k). This was especially so given that I was of the view that there was a large, if not complete, overlap between these two items. In the premises, I awarded $70,000.00 for items (a) and (k).

6 Moving on to item (b), I was of the view that plaintiff’s counsel had not justified his claim of $25,000.00 for these injuries. The only authority cited by him for this item did not come close to the sum claimed. Defence counsel’s submission of $6,000.00 was far closer to the mark and I hence awarded $6,000.00 for item (b).

7 Defence counsel’s submission for item (c) was $9,600.00 for these injuries. I found the main reason for the disparity between the submissions made by respective counsel on this item stemmed from their taking the extreme ends of the range of awards made by the courts in relation to such injuries. Defence counsel had, in arriving at their submission, also applied a discount on the basis that the two injuries comprising this item overlapped. I disagreed that there was an overlap and, in the absence of any evidence showing that the injuries in question were particularly serious or particularly trivial, awarded $17,000.00 for item (c), being $10,000.00 for the clavicle fracture and $7,000.00 for the scapular fracture.

8 Turning to item (d), defence counsel’s submission for this item was $1,500.00. This was far too low in light of the widespread and severe scarring which the plaintiff had suffered, and which still remained, as shown by recent photographs submitted to the court at defence counsel’s request. At the same time, plaintiff’s counsel’s submission of $20,000.00 was unacceptably high. I was of the view that $8,000.00 was a suitable award for item (d).

9 For item (e), defence counsel submitted that it should be considered together with item (f), and that the total damages awarded for items (e) and (f) should be $7,000.00. While I agreed that the two items ought to be considered together, I was of the view that the amount submitted by defence counsel was far too low. After taking into account the authorities cited, such as Cheong Kok Leong v Teo Yam Hock (unreported) and Heng Kim Eng v Singapore Bus Service (1978) Ltd (unreported), as well as Dr Chou Ning’s testimony that the fracture of the plaintiff’s 1st rib implied that he had suffered severe trauma, I awarded $15,000.00 for items (e) and (f).

10 On item (g), defence counsel submitted $1,500.00 but did not provide any authorities in support of their submission. At the same time, I took the view that plaintiff’s counsel’s authorities did not even come close to supporting his claim of $7,000.00 for this item, and awarded $2,500.00.

11 Item (h) was agreed between the parties at $10,000.00.

12 For item (i), defence counsel submitted that it should be considered together with item (j), and that the award for both items should be $7,000.00. I disagreed that the two items should be considered together. I also noted that the awards given in both authorities cited by defence counsel for this item far exceeded their own submission, without any reason given for the departure. In view of the authorities cited by both counsel, such as See Gim Tin v Gopalan Chandran [1996] MD para 992, I awarded $10,000.00 for item (i).

13 Finally, as to item (j), in the absence of any evidence showing that the injury had caused long-lasting damage to the plaintiff, plaintiff’s counsel’s submission of $20,000.00 was too high, and I was of the view that $10,000.00 was appropriate in the circumstances.

14 The total award to the plaintiff for pain and suffering was hence $148,500.00.

Loss of future earnings

15 The plaintiff’s claim of $619,115.04 for loss of future earnings was arrived at by using a multiplier of 12 years and a multiplicand of $4,299.41 per month. The multiplicand was obtained by using a mean salary of $2,150.00 per month (derived from the plaintiff’s last drawn salary in 1999), and then applying a yearly 5% increment in salary and an annual bonus of 1.5 months. On this basis, plaintiff’s counsel submitted that the plaintiff would then have been earning $3,087.00 per month by the time of the assessment in 2004. From there, plaintiff’s counsel applied a further 5% yearly increment to arrive at a mean salary of $4,299.41 per month over 12 years.

16 By contrast, defence counsel submitted that a multiplier of nine years was appropriate in the circumstances. They further submitted that since the plaintiff was working in Singapore on a work permit he would not necessarily work in Singapore for the entire period of his working life. Their submission of $126,000.00 for this head of claim was hence obtained by applying a multiplicand of $1,500.000 per month for three years (being the salary earned by the plaintiff in Singapore) and a multiplicand of $1,000.00 per month for six years (being the salary earned by the plaintiff when he returned to Malaysia on the expiry of his work permit).

17 I had serious misgivings about plaintiff’s counsel’s submissions on the salary the plaintiff could have earned if he had not been injured. The same method of computation which had enabled plaintiff’s counsel to arrive at a mean salary estimate of $4,299.41 for the purposes of calculating loss of future earnings had also resulted in the monthly salary figure of $5,543.81 per month in 2016. All other considerations aside, both amounts were wholly improbable given the evidence of Ms Chua Siok Hong, the representative of the plaintiff’s employer, that the highest possible position the plaintiff could have risen to with the company was that of senior supervisor, as it was accepted that the salary range for such...

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9 cases
  • Teo Ai Ling (by her next friend Chua Wee Bee) v Koh Chai Kwang
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 12 February 2010
    ...in support of his submission before me: Chin Swey Min (a patient suing by his wife and next friend Lim Siew Lee) v Nor Nizar bin Mohamed [2004] SGHC 27 where a sum of $10,000 was awarded for the fracture of the right clavicle. Chua Chuan Seng v Chua Eng Hwee (DC Suit No 2258 of 1997, unrepo......
  • Lai Wai Keong Eugene v Loo Wei Yen
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 28 June 2013
    ...Samuel v Shaw Linda Gillian [2010] 3 SLR 587 (refd) Chan Pui-ki v Leung On [1996] 2 HKLR 401 (refd) Chin Swey Min v Nor Nizar bin Mohamed [2004] SGHC 27 (refd) Cookson v Knowles [1979] AC 556 (refd) Dylan Simon v Manuel Paul Helmot [2012] UKPC 5 (refd) Ho Yiu v Lim Peng Seng [2004] 4 SLR (R......
  • Lai Wai Keong Eugene v Loo Wei Yen
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 28 June 2013
    ...there were 32 remaining years of life), Chin Swey Min a patient suing by his wife and next friend Lim Siew Lee v Nor Nizar Bin Mohamed [2004] SGHC 27 (multiplier of 16 when the plaintiff was 38 years old—life expectancy was not discussed), and Ang Leng Hock v Leo Ee An [2003] SGHC 240 befor......
  • Poh Huat Heng Corp Pte Ltd and others v Hafizul Islam Kofil Uddin
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    • 25 June 2012
    ...for future medical expenses. In Chin Swey Min (a patient suing by his wife and next friend Lim Siew Lee) v Nor Nizar Bin Mohamed [2004] SGHC 27, where the plaintiff was 42 years of age at the time of the assessment of damages, a multiplier of 16 years was applied in respect of future medica......
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