Indufela Company v Abdullah and Others

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtCourt of Three Judges (Singapore)
Judgment Date12 November 1975
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No 6 of 1975

[1975] SGCA 9

Court of Appeal

Wee Chong Jin CJ

,

F A Chua J

and

TKulasekaram J

Civil Appeal No 6 of 1975

Indufela Co
Plaintiff
and
Abdullah and others
Defendant

Robert Yap (Battenberg & Talma) for the appellant

J B Jeyaretnam (J B Jeyaretnam & Co) for the first respondent

Goh Soon Hock (A S K Wee) for the second respondents.

Tort–Negligence–Causation–Joint tortfeasors–Deceased employed to load timber–Timber transferred by crane–Deceased crushed by falling timber–Whether accident caused by negligence of employer's servant or crane owner's servant or both–Whether employer and crane owner vicariously liable–Tort–Vicarious liability–Joint tortfeasors–Deceased employed to load timber–Timber transferred by crane–Deceased crushed by falling timber–Whether accident caused by negligence of employer's servant or crane owner's servant or both–Whether employer and crane owner vicariously liable

The first defendant/appellant employed the deceased, together with one Ali, to load some timber. While the timber was being transferred by a crane belonging to and operated by a driver employed by the second defendant/respondent, some timber fell on to the deceased and he died. The plaintiffs/first respondent, the personal representatives of the deceased's estate, sued both defendants for negligence. The trial judge found that the timber could not have slipped in the absence of negligence on the part of Ali and/or the crane driver. As the plaintiffs had established a prima facie case of negligence, and the defendants had failed to give a satisfactory explanation, the trial judge found both defendants equally responsible for the accident. The first defendant appealed, and the second defendant cross-appealed.

Held, dismissing the appeal and the cross-appeal:

(1) The evidence plainly disclosed that the deceased was killed in the course of an operation jointly carried on by the servants of both defendants. The accident was undoubtedly due to the negligence of Ali and the crane driver or either one of them. The plaintiffs were entitled to succeed against them as joint tortfeasors and to have judgment against both defendants who were vicariously liable for the negligence of their servants: at [15].

(2) As neither Ali nor the crane driver gave a reasonable explanation as to the cause of the accident to negate negligence on their part, the trial judge was entitled to hold both defendants equally responsible in law for the accident: at [15].

Wee Chong Jin CJ

(delivering the judgment of the court):

1 The plaintiffs, who are the first respondents in this appeal, are the personal representatives of the estate of Razack Abdul Kader (“the deceased”) who died from injuries suffered in an accident during the loading of sawn timber on to a pontoon from a lorry at a jetty in Jurong. The first defendants, Indufela Co, the appellants in this appeal, are a firm of general contractors and suppliers of labour which employed the deceased at the time of the accident. The second defendants, Han Chuan Crane Co, the second respondents in this appeal, had hired out a mobile truck crane, operated by a crane driver in their employ, to the first defendants for loading the sawn timber on to the pontoon.

2 The plaintiffs, in an...

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