Lee Teck Nam v Kang Hock Seng Paul

Judgment Date29 July 2005
Date29 July 2005
Docket NumberSuit No 57 of 2002 (Registrar's Appeals Nos 4 and 5 of 2005)
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Lee Teck Nam
Plaintiff
and
Kang Hock Seng Paul
Defendant

[2005] SGHC 136

Andrew Ang J

Suit No 57 of 2002 (Registrar's Appeals Nos 4 and 5 of 2005)

High Court

Damages–Assessment–Loss of future earnings–Method of calculating loss of future earnings–Whether loss of salary increments and promotion opportunity to be included in such calculation–Damages–Assessment–Loss of pre-trial earnings–Possibility of plaintiff claiming part of damages awarded for loss of pre-trial earnings from employer under terms of employment contract–Whether defendant liable for such damages–Damages–Measure of damages–Personal injuries cases–Factors to consider when determining quantum of damages for non-pecuniary losses resulting from physical injury

The plaintiff had obtained interlocutory judgement against the defendant for damages in respect of injuries sustained in a motor accident which resulted in the plaintiff having to resign from his job. At the hearing for assessment of damages, the assistant registrar (“AR”) awarded the plaintiff $50,000 for pain and suffering, after adopting a global approach and considering the severity of the accident and the age of the plaintiff.

The AR assessed the plaintiff's loss of earnings from 22 June 1999 to 1 August 2001 (“the first period”) at $99,624.69 and from 2 August 2001 (when the plaintiff resigned from his job) to August 2004 (“the second period”) at $133,211.38.

The AR made her assessment in respect of the first period after dismissing the defendant's argument that the plaintiff was entitled under his employment contract to claim a portion of that figure from his employer in respect of paid medical leave. The AR's award for the second period reflected her finding that the plaintiff had not mitigated his loss because his letters seeking employment were unduly negative in tone. The AR held that but for the unduly negative letters, the plaintiff ought to have been able to find new employment within one year of his resignation.

The AR used a multiplier of five years to make an award for loss of future earnings and disallowed the plaintiff's claim for loss of salary increments.

The plaintiff appealed against the awards for pain and suffering, loss of pre-trial earnings in the second period and loss of future earnings. The defendant cross-appealed against the award for the plaintiff's loss of pre-trial earnings in the first period.

Held, allowing the appeal in part and dismissing the cross-appeal:

(1) The principle behind damages for personal injury was that the injured party should be paid full compensation for all losses, past and future, pecuniary and otherwise. However, this was not easily applied as there was no obviously correct amount. Even so, awards have had to be made and over time, numerous decisions have been rendered. While judges have strived to achieve consistency with past cases, no two cases are identical. Factors to be taken into account in individual cases included the nature of the injury, its severity, the duration of any disability and its prognosis, the impact of the injury, any continuing disability on the plaintiff and the awareness of the plaintiff of his disability: at [6] and [7].

(2) In considering an award for pain and suffering, the global approach was the correct one, but as the AR had not taken sufficient account of the severity of the plaintiff's injuries, his age and inflation, the award should be increased: at [13].

(3) In respect of the first period, as the plaintiff's employer had not been given an opportunity to submit on the proper construction of the clause in the employment contract relating to the plaintiff's entitlement to paid medical leave, the defendant should be made liable for that amount of money that the plaintiff might have claimed from his employer. Otherwise, the plaintiff might be exposed to the possibility of not being compensated by either his employer or the defendant: at [23].

(4) With regard to the second period, it was necessary as a matter of policy to factor in the fact that the plaintiff's letters seeking employment were unduly negative in tone. However, in finding that but for his unduly negative letters, the plaintiff could have found another job in one year, the AR gave insufficient weight to the dire employment situation in Singapore at the relevant time, and the fact that the plaintiff was a middle-aged man with physical disabilities. Instead of one year, the plaintiff would more likely have taken two years to find employment. The award for the second period should be increased accordingly so that the plaintiff could fully recover for loss of income for the first two years of his unemployment: at [31].

(5) In computing loss of future earnings, there was a need to discount for future contingencies and for the investment value of receiving a lump sum in advance. This was achieved by reducing the multiplier. The amount that the multiplier should be reduced by depended on the amount of time remaining in the plaintiff's working life. If the remaining working life was long, a greater discount should be applied to factor in the vicissitudes of life and the value of investing a lump sum over a long period. If the remaining working life was short, a smaller discount was appropriate. The aim should be to achieve restitutio in integrum to the extent that was possible. The multiplier in this case should be increased from five years to six years: at [38] to [40].

(6) A claim for loss of future increments and promotion opportunity properly fell within a claim for loss of future earnings. As there was evidence that the plaintiff had received increments fairly regularly, one increment at the beginning of the third year and another at the commencement of the fifth year after trial should be awarded: at [41] and [43].

Bradburn v The Great Western Railway Co (1874) LR 10 Ex 1 (refd)

British Transport Commission v Gourley [1956] AC 185 (refd)

Browning v The War Office [1963] 1 QB 750 (refd)

Chang Ah Lek v Lim Ah Koon [1998] 3 SLR (R) 551; [1999] 1 SLR 82 (folld)

Goh Eng Hong v Management Corporation of Textile Centre [2003] 1 SLR (R) 209; [2003] 1 SLR 209 (refd)

Husain v New Taplow Paper Mills Ltd [1988] AC 514 (refd)

Khoo Ih Chu v Chong Hoe Siong Jeremy [1989] 2 SLR (R) 243; [1989] SLR 855 (refd)

Livingstone v The Rawyards Coal Co (1880) 5 AC 25 (refd)

Low Swee Tong v Liew Machinery (Pte) Ltd [1993] 2 SLR (R) 10; [1993] 3 SLR 89 (refd)

Parry v Cleaver [1970] AC 1 (refd)

Receiver For The Metropolitan Police District v Croydon Corporation [1957] 2 QB 154 (refd)

Smith v Manchester Corporation (1974) 17 KIR 1 (refd)

Vittorio Luigi Roveda v Singapore Bus Service (1978) Ltd [1997] SGHC 130 (distd)

Chong Pik Wah (Lim Kia Tong & Partners) for the appellant

Kwok-Chern Yew Tee and Goh E Pei (Lawrence Chua & Partners) for the respondent.

Andrew Ang J

1 This was an appeal by the plaintiff and a cross-appeal by the defendant against distinct parts of the assessment of damages by the assistant registrar (“AR”).

2 I gratefully adopt the succinct summary of the facts by the learned AR as follows:

Facts

  1. 1. The plaintiff was involved in an accident on 22 June 1999. Judgment was granted for the plaintiff against the defendant after a trial. The assessment of damages came before me.

  2. 2. As a result of the accident, the plaintiff sustained the following injuries:

    1. (a) severe comminuted open fracture of the right tibia and fibula;

    2. (b) fracture dislocation of the right proximal tibia - fibula joint;

    3. (c) complete peroneal nerve injury of the right leg;

    4. (d) multiple wounds and bruising on the right lower leg;

    5. (e) bruising of the left leg;

    6. (f) bruises and cuts on the right arm;

    7. (g) bruises on the right hip.

  1. 3. Presently, the plaintiff suffers various disabilities as follows:

    1. (a) shortening of the right leg by 1cm;

    2. (b) Grade 1 valgus instability of the knee and knee crepitus;

    3. (c) limitation of the right knee motion;

    4. (d) swollen right ankle with limitation of ankle motion;

    5. (e) partial peroneal nerve palsy with Grade I weakness of toes and Grade II weakness of right ankle, numbness of right foot and lateral aspect of leg and right drop foot;

    6. (f) multiple scars;

    7. (g) residual pain, swelling and a limp right leg;

    8. (h) loss of calf muscle and weakness of the right leg;

    9. (i) osteoarthritis of the right knee and right ankle.

  1. 4. At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was 49 years old and working as a front office manager with New Park Hotel. Following the accident, he underwent nine operations and was on medical leave for more than 15 months. His employment record since the date of the accident was as follows:

Date Employment record

22 June 1999 - 31 August 2000

Medical leave.

1 September 2000 - 26 March 2001

Resumed work as assistant front office manager.

27 March 2001 - 17 May 2001

Medical leave.

18 May 2001 - 1 August 2001

Resumed work and resigned with effect from 2 August 2001.

2 August 2001 - to-date

Unemployed.

  1. 5. When the plaintiff was on medical leave from June 1999 to February 2000, he continued receiving his full salary. In March 2000, his employer started paying him two-thirds (2/3) of his salary until August 2000. In addition, his employer informed him that under his contract of employment, he was only entitled to two months of hospitalisation leave. As such, although he had been paid his salary throughout his medical leave from June 1999 till August 2000, the employer was treating the sums paid to him in excess of two months as a loan, which he must repay to the company after he has obtained the judgment sum.

  2. 6. When the plaintiff resumed...

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4 cases
  • Lai Wai Keong Eugene v Loo Wei Yen
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 28 June 2013
    ...Lai Wee Lian v Singapore Bus Service (1978) Ltd [1983-1984] SLR (R) 388; [1984-1985] SLR 10 (folld) Lee Teck Nam v Kang Hock Seng Paul [2005] 4 SLR (R) 14; [2005] 4 SLR 14 (folld) Lee Wei Kong v Ng Siok Tong [2012] 2 SLR 85 (refd) Lim Poh Choo v Camden and Islington Area Health Authority [1......
  • Lai Wai Keong Eugene v Loo Wei Yen
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 28 June 2013
    ...or downwards incrementally to account for the circumstances of a particular case (see for example Lee Teck Nam v Kang Hock Seng Paul [2005] 4 SLR(R) 14 at [40] (“Lee Teck Nam”)). By incrementally, I mean 1 or 2 units, perhaps 3. The multiplier so arrived at discounts for both the vicissitud......
  • Balanalagirisamy Gowri Rajeswari and another (administrators of the estate of Radhakrishnan Hari Babu, deceased) v Wong Si Wah
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 15 October 2008
    ...have received yearly increments. As such, the plaintiffs submitted (on the authority of, inter alia, Lee Teck Nam v Kang Hock Seng Paul [2005] 4 SLR 14 at [42]–[43]) that the court should factor in an increment of 4% per annum to the basic 18 It might be argued that to allow that the Deceas......
  • Mark Amaraganthan Selvaganthan v Cheung Man Wai
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 30 September 2015
    ...opportunities and bonus awards. The plaintiff does not elaborate, but it is clear from the case of Lee Teck Nam v Kang Hock Seng Paul [2005] 4 SLR(R) 14 at [41] that claims for loss of promotion opportunity fall within the head of loss of future earnings. I first deal with plaintiff’s claim......

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