Hauque Enamul v China Taiping Insurance (Singapore) Pte Ltd and another

JurisdictionSingapore
JudgeGeorge Wei J
Judgment Date15 May 2018
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Docket NumberTribunal Appeal No 1 of 2017
Date15 May 2018
Hauque Enamul
and
China Taiping Insurance (Singapore) Pte Ltd and another

[2018] SGHC 118

George Wei J

Tribunal Appeal No 1 of 2017

High Court

Employment Law — Work Injury Compensation Act (Cap 354, 2009 Rev Ed) — Employee appealing Commissioner's order — Commissioner allegedly taking into account irrelevant considerations and failing to take into account relevant considerations — Whether substantial question of law — Section 29(2A) Work Injury Compensation Act (Cap 354, 2009 Rev Ed)

Employment Law — Work Injury Compensation Act (Cap 354, 2009 Rev Ed) — Employee injuring back while lifting pipes at work — Whether “accident arising out of and in the course of the employment” — Section 3(1) Work Injury Compensation Act (Cap 354, 2009 Rev Ed)

Employment Law — Work Injury Compensation Act (Cap 354, 2009 Rev Ed) — Employee with internal medical condition suffering injury at work — Whether “accident arising out of and in the course of the employment” — Section 3(1) Work Injury Compensation Act (Cap 354, 2009 Rev Ed)

Held, allowing the appeal:

(1) There had to be a substantial question of law for an appeal to lie against any order by the Commissioner: at [29].

(2) The applicant's essential complaint was that the Commissioner took certain considerations into account when they were irrelevant, and failed to take into account other considerations when they were relevant. This gave rise to a substantial question of law: at [37].

(3) In order for an employer to be liable for compensation under s 3(1) of the WICA, the workman had to prove that: (a) he had suffered a personal injury; (b) that had been caused by an accident; and (c) that the accident arose out of and in the course of employment: at [26].

(4) It was not disputed that the applicant had suffered a personal injury. The main issue on appeal was whether the applicant's injury was caused by an accident, which accident arose out of and in the course of employment (ie, elements (b) and (c)): at [27].

(5) Although the WICA did not define an accident, an accident essentially meant an untoward event that was not designed. An accident included an internal medical condition that caused an unexpected injury while the employee was carrying out work. It was not limited to a case where the incident and the physical aftermath could be readily perceived by the naked eye such as a fractured leg or skin burn. Indeed, many accidents and injuries were much subtler: at [40], [43], [55] and [65].

(6) Section 3(6) of the WICA established a rebuttable presumption that an accident which arose in the course of an employee's employment would be deemed to have arose out of that employment. A claimant only bore the burden of proving on a balance of probabilities that his injury was caused by an accident that arose in the course of his employment. Once that was shown, the burden of proof then shifted to the party denying the claim. That party will then have to prove, on a balance of probabilities, that the accident arose out of something the claimant did, which was not connected with the incidents of the claimant's employment: at [66], [77] and [78].

(7) An accident arose in the course of employment if it bore a temporal relationship with the employment. A simple test was whether the accident occurred, as a matter of common sense, while the employee was at work. In contrast, an accident arose out of the employment if there was a causal connection between the employment (and its incidents) and the accident. Much would depend on a common-sense appraisal of the facts bearing in mind the objectives of the WICA: at [68], [69] and [72].

(8) There was nothing in the medical reports to suggest that the doctors were of the view that the applicant was merely pretending to be in pain. The applicant clearly could not be feigning the fact of a L5-S1 disc protrusion. The consistent evidence was that during the course of work on 8 August 2015, the applicant felt sharp pain in his lower back whilst tasked to move the pipes, and that further investigation revealed that the pain was likely caused by a L5-S1 disc protrusion. There was no doubt that an accident took place on 8 August 2015: at [60] and [61].

(9) It was plainly possible that there was miscommunication between the applicant and the medical staff at KTPH on 8 August 2015. It was not disputed that Senthil did most of the talking when, presumably, he described the accident to the KTPH medical staff. Although no evidence was adduced on the medical record sharing system between the hospitals, it was well known and a matter of public record that Singapore began implementing an electronic medical record exchange system in 2004 to facilitate the sharing of electronic hospital inpatient discharge summaries across public healthcare clusters. Information shared included the hospital's inpatient discharge summaries, laboratory test results, radiology reports, outpatient discharge summaries and polyclinic discharge summaries. Indeed, the sharing of records between hospitals would explain why the language used in the KTPH Report and the TTSH Report described the applicant's 2013 fall in very similar terms. The result was that the initial error in the date recorded by the KTPH Report was likely carried forward to subsequent medical reports and memos. The Commissioner had placed excessive weight on the error in the date as stated in the KTPH and TTSH Reports, even though there was no evidence that the applicant reported to work on the morning of 8 August 2015 with any pain or difficulty in movement: at [86], [89], [90], [93] and [95].

(10) The rebuttable presumption under s 3(6) of the WICA arose in favour of the applicant, and was not rebutted by the respondents: at [101].

[Observation: In addressing the requirements that an accident under s 3(1) of the WICA had to arise in the course of and out of the employment, it was necessary to bear in mind the social objectives of the WICA. An individual, as a result of a first accident, might be more susceptible of disability or impediment if he had a second accident. If a second accident took place whilst he was performing his work, the fact that he had the increased susceptibility because of the first accident did not mean that the second accident did not occur in the course of employment: at [63] and [64].]

Case(s) referred to

Allianz Insurance Co (Singapore) Pte Ltd v Ma Shoudong [2011] 3 SLR 1167 (refd)

Asia Hotel Investments Ltd v Starwood Asia Pacific Management Pte Ltd [2007] SGHC 50 (refd)

Caterpillar Far East Ltd v CEL Tractors Pte Ltd [1994] 2 SLR(R) 889; [1994] 2 SLR 702 (refd)

Charles R Davidson and Co v M'Robb or Officer [1918] AC 304 (refd)

Director-General of Inland Revenue v Rakyat Berjaya Sdn Bhd [1984] 1 MLJ 248 (folld)

Edwards (Inspector of Taxes) v Bairstow [1956] AC 14 (refd)

Karuppiah Ravichandran v GDS Engineering Pte Ltd [2009] 3 SLR(R) 1028; [2009] 3 SLR 1028 (refd)

Kee Yau Chong v S H Interdeco Pte Ltd [2014] 1 SLR 189 (refd)

Ng Swee Lang v Sassoon Samuel Bernard [2008] 1 SLR(R) 522; [2008] 1 SLR 522 (refd)

NTUC Income Insurance Co-operative Ltd v Next of kin of Narayasamy s/o Ramasamy, deceased [2006] 4 SLR(R) 507; [2006] 4 SLR 507 (folld)

Pang Chew Kim v Wartsila Singapore Pte Ltd [2012] 1 SLR 15 (refd)

Shell Eastern Petroleum (Pte) Ltd v Chuan Hong Auto (Pte) Ltd [1995] 1 SLR(R) 902; [1995] 3 SLR 281 (refd)

Smile Inc Dental Surgeons Pte Ltd v Lui Andrew Stewart [2012] 4 SLR 308 (refd)

Tay Joo Sing v Ku Yu Sang [1994] 1 SLR(R) 765; [1994] 3 SLR 719 (refd)

Valentino Globe BV v Pacific Rim Industries Inc [2009] 4 SLR(R) 577; [2009] 4 SLR 577 (refd)

Weaver v Tredegar Iron and Coal Co Ltd [1940] AC 955 (refd)

Zheng Yu Shan v Lian Beng Construction (1988) Pte Ltd [2009] 2 SLR(R) 587; [2009] 2 SLR 587 (folld)

Facts

The applicant was lifting pipes at work on the morning of 8 August 2015 when he injured his lower back. He was brought to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (“KTPH”) in the afternoon, accompanied by one Senthil, the safety coordinator. Senthil explained to the doctor who examined the applicant how the accident happened. The medical report (“the KTPH Report”) stated, however, that the applicant sustained the injury on 7 August 2015. 7 August 2015 was not a working day.

Subsequently, the applicant attended Tan Tock Seng Hospital (“TTSH”) five times for follow-up checks. One of the medical reports by TTSH, dated 2 September 2015 (“the TTSH Report”), also stated that the applicant had suffered his injury by an accident that occurred on 7 August 2015.

On 8 September 2015, the applicant lodged a report with the Ministry of Manpower (“MOM”) to seek compensation. An MRI scan performed by TTSH to assist in the MOM assessment found, inter alia, that there was a small central disc protrusion at L5-S1, which was consistent with an injury arising from lifting a heavy load. Eventually, the MOM awarded the applicant a sum of $11,850.08, which was equivalent to 10% of the sum that could be awarded for permanent incapacity.

The respondents disputed the award. Before the Assistant Commissioner for Labour (“the Commissioner”), the second respondent disclaimed its liability as the applicant's employer to compensate the applicant under s 3(1) of the Work Injury Compensation Act (Cap 354, 2009 Rev Ed) (“WICA”) on the basis that the applicant's injury was caused by an accident that did not arise out of and in the course of his employment. The Commissioner noted that the KTPH Report and the TTSH Report both stated that the applicant had sustained the injury on 7 August 2015. The Commissioner thus dismissed the applicant's claim. The applicant appealed.

Legislation referred to

Evidence Act (Cap 97, 1997 Rev Ed) ss 58, 59(1)

Rules of Court (Cap 322, R 5, 2014 Rev Ed) O 55 r 2(1)

Work Injury Compensation Act (Cap 354, 2009 Rev Ed) ss 3(1), 3(6), 29, 29(2A)

Jogesh s/o Kantilal Doshi (Hoh Law Corporation) for the applicant;

Ramesh Appoo (Just Law LLC) for the respondents.

15 May 2018

...

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