Keppel Bus Co Ltd v Sa'ad bin Ahmad

JudgeChua F A J
Judgment Date31 July 1972
Neutral Citation[1972] SGCA 6
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No 14 of 1971
Date31 July 1972
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselKE Hilborne (Hilborne & Co)
Citation[1972] SGCA 6
Defendant CounselHE Cashin (Murphy & Dunbar)
CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
Subject MatterTort,Appeals against findings of fact made by trial judge -Approach of appellate courts,Whether bus operator vicariously liable,Passenger struck by bus conductor while travelling on a bus,Whether bus conductor acting in course of employment,Vicarious liability,Civil Procedure,Appeals

The respondent, Sa`ad bin Ahmad, while travelling as a fare-paying passenger on a bus operated by the appellants, Keppel Bus Co, was struck on the left eye with a ticket punch by the bus conductor. He sued the appellants and the bus conductor for damages for personal injuries and consequent loss and expense caused by this assault and battery.

The bus conductor conducted his own defence and in his statement of defence claimed that the injury caused to the respondent was accidental and was caused while defending himself from a blow by the respondent.
The appellants, while admitting they employed the bus conductor, denied liability on the ground that the assault was not within the scope of the bus conductor`s authority and was an independent act unconnected with his employment. Alternatively, the appellants pleaded volenti non fit injuria, alleging that the injury was caused by the bus conductor in the course of defending himself from a blow by the respondent.

At the conclusion of the trial, the trial judge gave judgment for the respondent against the appellants and the bus conductor and awarded the respondent $20,290 damages and costs.
The appellants now appeal and as one of the grounds of appeal is that the judgment was against the weight of the evidence it is necessary to set out the facts in some detail.

The respondent said that as the bus was travelling along Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim towards Jurong he was seated nearer the rear portion on a seat next to the central aisle.
A Malay woman who was seated two seats in front of him also next to the aisle wanted to alight and was told by the conductor in a harsh tone to wait near the door of the bus. On hearing this he told the conductor the woman might fall but the conductor resented this intrusion and abused him. By then the bus had stopped and the Malay woman had alighted. On being abused he got up from his seat, touched the conductor, who was standing in front of him, on the shoulder, and told the conductor not to abuse him. The conductor continued to abuse him with the same words of abuse and blows were exchanged. He was unable to remember who struck the first blow. Some of the passengers intervened and he sat down with the conductor still standing in front of him. When he was so seated something hard hit the sun glasses he was then wearing, breaking the glass over the left eye and a broken piece of the glass entered his left eye eventually causing him to lose the sight of that eye.

A passenger, Mohamed Daud, gave evidence for the respondent.
Mohamed Daud said he was seated behind the respondent and heard a Malay woman telling the conductor she wanted to alight and the conductor telling her to go and wait by the door of the bus. He then heard the respondent, who was seated, telling the conductor, who was standing in front of the respondent, that it was dangerous to tell the woman passenger to wait by the door of the bus. The conductor asked the respondent what he wanted and the respondent replied he would report the conductor to his employers. Then, while the Malay woman was still seated the conductor threw a punch at the respondent which missed. Soon after, the bus stopped at a bus stop and the Malay woman alighted from the bus. After she had alighted Mohamed Daud heard the conductor abusing the respondent and saw them standing facing each other. Nothing happened between them and the respondent sat down. Then Mohamed Daud saw the conductor holding the ticket punch in his left hand and with his left hand hit the respondent on the left eye. In cross-examination Mohamed Daud said that when the conductor threw the first punch, using the right hand, the respondent retaliated and some blows were then exchanged which ended when some passengers intervened.

The bus conductor elected not to give evidence on his own behalf but was called as a witness for the appellants.
He said that at the material time the bus was full and there were about ten standing passengers. The Malay woman was seated in the first row immediately behind the driver. He saw her raised hand, went up to her and told her if she wanted to alight to walk to the side of the entrance cum exit door as the bus was crowded. As she did not get up, he pressed the bell for the driver to stop the bus for her to get down and then he moved to the middle of the bus. Then the respondent walked up to him, stood in front of him and asked why he was chasing the female passenger out of the bus. He told the respondent he was teaching her how to get down from the bus and the respondent said he would lodge a complaint to which he replied he could do so and to mind his own business. Then the respondent aimed a punch at his face which he avoided and he in turn threw a punch which also missed. At that stage the passengers intervened...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT