Lai Wai Keong Eugene v Loo Wei Yen

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtCourt of Three Judges (Singapore)
Judgment Date29 May 2014
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No 170 of 2012
Date29 May 2014
Lai Wai Keong Eugene
Plaintiff
and
Loo Wei Yen
Defendant

[2014] SGCA 31

Chao Hick Tin JA

,

Andrew Phang Boon Leong JA

and

V K Rajah JA

Civil Appeal No 170 of 2012

Court of Appeal

Tort—Negligence—Damages—Plaintiff rendered paraplegic as a result of accident for which defendant accepted 90% liability—Plaintiff claiming lump sum damages for loss of future earnings and future medical expenses—Whether conventional approach of assessing lump sum damages for future losses should be discarded in favour of present value approach—Whether multipliers used under conventional approach should be revised in light of changes to retirement age and prevailing investment rates of return

While riding a motorcycle, the appellant collided with a car which the respondent was driving. He suffered catastrophic injuries and was rendered paraplegic as a result of the accident. The respondent accepted 90% liability for the accident, with damages to be assessed.

At the assessment of damages (by which time the appellant was 39 years old), the appellant produced a present value table setting out the capital sum required to compensate him for loss of future earnings (‘LFE’) based on his expected future earnings over his remaining working lifespan, at interest rates varying between 0% and 5%. Using this table, the appellant argued that a 1% interest rate should be adopted together with a 10% discount for vicissitudes, resulting in an LFE award of $1,823,034.60. The appellant further argued that a multiplier of 23 should be used to calculate his future medical expenses (‘FME’). However, the assistant registrar (‘the AR’) held that it was inappropriate to use present value tables to assess damages for LFE and instead looked at past cases involving plaintiffs of similar ages to determine the appropriate multiplier. He accordingly applied a multiplier of 13 for LFE and 15 for FME.

Dissatisfied with the AR's award for LFE and FME, the appellant appealed to the High Court, arguing that the Court of Appeal's decision in Poh Huat Heng Corp Pte Ltd v Hafizul Islam Kofil Uddin[2012] 3 SLR 1003 (‘Hafizul’) had paved the way for the court to depart from the conventional approach of assessing damages for LFE and FME (which involved the selection of: (a) an appropriate multiplicand representing the plaintiff's projected annual future earnings or medical expenses; and (b) an appropriate multiplier representing the plaintiff's remaining working life or life expectancy, discounted for accelerated receipt and the vicissitudes of life) in favour of the present value approach. The High Court dismissed the appellant's appeal and he appealed to the Court of Appeal.

Held, dismissing the appeal:

(1) It was incorrect to read Hafizul as endorsing an approach to assessing damages for LFE that dispensed with the use of multipliers altogether and relied entirely on present value calculations. The court in Hafizul endorsed two approaches: under the first approach, the multiplier would be selected by reference to the multipliers used in comparable cases; under the second approach, the multiplier would be derived by taking the plaintiff's expected working life (expressed as a number of years) and then discounting that figure for accelerated receipt and the vicissitudes of life. Both approaches dealt with the selection of the multiplier to be used under the conventional approach. Although the second approach would in practice require the court to make present value calculations to determine the appropriate discount to be applied for accelerated receipt, and there was nothing wrong with using present value tables for this purpose, the ultimate purpose of the exercise remained the derivation of a multiplier that could be cross-checked with the multipliers used in past cases so as to achieve consistency with cases involving similarly-situated plaintiffs: at [20] .

(2) Both the approaches described in Hafizul were appropriate and could be adopted by the courts in assessing damages for LFE. However, a court utilising the second approach should ensure that the resulting multiplier was broadly consistent with the multipliers used in comparable cases, and should not stray too far from the implicit discounts embedded in the multipliers used in those cases: at [21] .

(3) It was unnecessary to undertake a broad review of the multipliers used under the conventional approach to account for the increase in the minimum retirement age, as this was something that the courts would in any event take into account if it was relevant on the facts of the case: at [27] .

(4) It was inappropriate to use the prevailing fixed deposit interest rates as the benchmark for determining the discount for accelerated receipt. First, it was not reasonable for a plaintiff to invest his entire lump sum award in fixed deposits. Where the damages award was meant to compensate the plaintiff for decades of lost earnings, a substantial portion of the award would not be called upon for many years, and that portion could be invested in equities or other asset classes to achieve a higher return (as compared to fixed deposits) in the meantime. Second, there was no guarantee that the present low rates of return would persist: at [34] and [36] .

(5) Although there was scope for reform in this area of law, the courts were not in a position to undertake that reform. Any drastic change to the discount rate for accelerated receipt could only be undertaken after a careful study, with input from experts and the various stakeholders involved. This was a matter that fell within the institutional competence of the Legislature: at [37] .

(6) There was no basis to disturb the AR's award of damages.The multiplier of 13 adopted by the AR in assessing damages for the appellant's LFE was consistent with the multipliers used in past cases. As for FME, the AR's choice of a 15-year multiplier, while perhaps on the low side, remained within the range contemplated by the authorities, and was not manifestly inadequate: at [40] and [43] .

Ang Leng Hock v Leo Ee Ah [2004] 2 SLR (R) 361; [2004] 2 SLR 361 (refd)

Chin Swey Min v Nor Nizar bin Mohamed [2004] SGHC 27 (refd)

Cookson v Knowles [1979] AC 556 (refd)

Kartina bte Mohd Nor v Pee Tian Leng [1994] SGHC 291 (refd)

Katijah binti Abdullah v Lee Leong Toh [1940] MLJ 87 (refd)

Koh Chai Kwang v Teo Ai Ling [2011] 3 SLR 610 (refd)

Lai Chi Kay v Lee Kuo Shin [1981-1982] SLR (R) 71; [1980-1981] SLR 513 (refd)

Lai Wee Lian v Singapore Bus Service (1978) Ltd [1983-1984] SLR (R) 388; [1984-1985] SLR 10 (refd)

Lim Fook Lau v Kepdrill International Inc SA [1992] 3 SLR (R) 244; [1993] 1 SLR 917 (refd)

Mallett v Mc Monagle [1970] AC 166 (refd)

Neo Kim Seng v Clough Petrosea Pte Ltd [1996] 2 SLR (R) 413; [1996] 3 SLR 522 (refd)

Pahang Lin Siong Motor Co Ltd v Cheong Swee Khai [1962] MLJ 29 (refd)

Poh Huat Heng Corp Pte Ltd v Hafizul Islam Kofil Uddin [2012] 3 SLR 1003 (refd)

Tan Juay Mui v Sher Kuan Hock [2012] 3 SLR 496 (refd)

Tay Cheng Yan v Tock Hua Bin [1992] 1 SLR (R) 779; [1992] 1 SLR 761 (refd)

Teo Ai Ling v Koh Chai Kwang [2010] 2 SLR 1037 (refd)

TV Media Pte Ltd v De Cruz Andrea Heidi [2004] 3 SLR (R) 543; [2004] 3 SLR 543 (refd)

Wells v Wells [1999] 1 AC 345 (not folld)

Retirement Age Act 1993 (Act 14 of 1993)

Retirement Age Act (Cap 274 A, 1994 Rev Ed)

Retirement and Re-Employment Act (Cap 274 A, 2012 Rev Ed) s 4 (1)

Road Traffic Act (Cap 276, 2004 Rev Ed) s 65

Damages Act 1996 (c 48) (UK) s 1

Anthony Wee and Pak Waltan (United Legal Alliance LLC) for the appellant

Desmond Tan Yen Hau (Lee & Lee) for the respondent

Teo Weng Kie and Charlene Chee (Tan Kok Quan Partnership) for the General Insurance Association of Singapore

Michael Low Wan Kwong (Crossbows LLP) and Linus Ng Siew Hoong (Robert Wang & Woo LLP) for the Consumers Association of Singapore.

Judgment reserved.

Chao Hick Tin JA

(delivering the judgment of the court):

Introduction

1 This is an appeal against the decision of the High Court in Registrar's Appeal No 273 of 2012, where the judge (‘the Judge’) dismissed the appellant's appeal against an award of damages made by an assistant registrar (‘the AR’). The Judge's decision is reported in Lai Wai Keong Eugene v Loo Wei Yen[2013] 3 SLR 1113 (‘the GD’), and the AR's decision, in Lai Wai Keong Eugene v Loo Wei Yen [2012] SGHCR 8.

2 The case concerns the assessment of damages for the loss of future earnings (‘LFE’) and future medical expenses (‘FME’) of a tort victim who is injured in an accident. The conventional approach in assessing damages in such cases involves the selection of:

(a) an appropriate multiplicand representing the plaintiff's projected annual future earnings or medical expenses (depending on whether it is LFE or FME that is being assessed); and

(b) an appropriate multiplier representing the plaintiff's remaining working life or life expectancy (again, depending on whether it is LFE or FME that is being assessed), discounted for accelerated receipt and the vicissitudes of life.

The central issue in this appeal is whether the conventional approach should be departed from or otherwise reviewed in the light of changes to the statutory minimum retirement age (‘the minimum retirement age’) and the prevailing real interest rates.

3 We first heard the appeal on 5 November 2013. At that hearing, counsel for the appellant, Mr Anthony Wee (‘Mr Wee’), averred (among other things) that the multiplier used for the calculation of LFE had traditionally been capped at 16 years, even for young plaintiffs. As the reason for this purported cap was unclear, we adjourned the hearing for further submissions on:

(a) the historical origins of the multiplier which has been applied in comparable cases and the rationale for the cap of 16 years on the multiplier; and

(b) whether the multiplier should be reviewed in the light of the increase in the minimum retirement...

To continue reading

Request your trial
6 cases
  • AOD (a minor suing by his litigation representative) v AOE
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 20 October 2015
    ...multiplier should at least be 16 years. The Plaintiff relies on the Court of Appeal’s dicta in Lai Wai Keong Eugene v Loo Wei Yen [2014] 3 SLR 702 (“Lai Wai Keong Eugene”) at [43] that a 15-year multiplier for an appellant with a lifespan of 30 years “while perhaps on the low side, remains ......
  • Zhu Xiu Chun v Rockwills Trustee Ltd
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • 1 September 2016
    ...(refd) Kim Anseok v Shi Sool Hee [2010] SGHC 124 (refd) Ladd v MarshallWLR [1954] 1 WLR 1489 (refd) Lai Wai Keong Eugene v Loo Wei Yen [2014] 3 SLR 702 (refd) Lai Wee Lian v Singapore Bus Service (1978) Ltd [1983–1984] SLR(R) 388; [1984–1985] SLR 10 (refd) Lam Pak Chiu v Tsang Mei Ying [200......
  • Quek Yen Fei Kenneth (by his litigation representative Pang Choy Chun) v Yeo Chye Huat and another appeal
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • 24 April 2017
    ...Damages in Personal Injury Litigation in Singapore?: Wells v Wells” [2000] Sing JLS 364 at 370). In Lai Wai Keong Eugene v Loo Wei Yen [2014] 3 SLR 702 (“Eugene Lai”) at [20]–[22], this court rejected a submission that Hafizul essentially endorsed dispensing with the Precedent Approach in f......
  • Pollmann, Christian Joachim v Ye Xianrong
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 26 April 2021
    ...QB 454 (refd) Hauque Enamul v China Taiping Insurance (Singapore) Pte Ltd [2018] 5 SLR 485 (refd) Lai Wai Keong Eugene v Loo Wei Yen [2014] 3 SLR 702 (folld) Lua Bee Kiang v Yeo Chee Siong [2019] 1 SLR 145 (folld) Man Mohan Singh s/o Jothirambal Singh v Zurich Insurance (Singapore) Pte Ltd ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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