Neo Kim Seng v Clough Petrosea Pte Ltd

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeJudith Prakash J
Judgment Date02 July 1996
Neutral Citation[1996] SGHC 131
Citation[1996] SGHC 131
Defendant CounselMartin Lee (Goh Poh & Pnrs)
Plaintiff CounselR Karuppan Chettiar (Karuppan Chettiar & Husain)
Published date19 September 2003
Docket NumberSuit No 1275 of 1994
Date02 July 1996
Subject MatterLoss of future earnings,Damages,Multiplicand,Multiplier,Measure of damages,Loss of earning capacity,Personal injuries cases,Disparity in overtime pay earned by colleagues of same grade,Fairest method of calculating multiplicand,Whether award precluded by award of loss of future earnings

Cur Adv Vult

This action was commenced by the plaintiff to recover damages forinjurywhich he sustained while in the employ of the defendants. At the beginning ofthe trial, the defendants admitted liability and the trial proceeded only onthe issue of quantum. After hearing the evidence, I awarded the plaintiff$55,000 as general damages for pain and suffering and also made awards inrespect of his pre\_trial loss of earnings, medical and transport expenses todate of trial and future medical expenses.

The plaintiff had also claimed damages for future loss ofearnings andfor loss of earning capacity.
As regards the first item, I awarded $35,242based on a multiplier of six years and a multiplicand of $492 a month. I alsoawarded a further sum of $6,373 in respect of CPF contributions which wouldhave been payable by the defendants on such earnings. In respect of the claimfor loss of earning capacity, I made an award of $25,000. The plaintiff hasappealed against these two awards.

The facts

The plaintiff is a mechanic who has worked for the defendantssince1987.
The defendants carry on business as ship repairers and the mechanicsthey employ have to work both in their shipyard and on board vessels to whichthey are attending.

In September 1991, the plaintiff was assigned to work on boardthe bargeAlaska Enterprise which was moored out at sea alongside a drilling supportvessel.
At about 4pm on the afternoon of 15 September 1991, while theplaintiff was attending to a generator on board the barge, he was struck by awinch wire and sustained multiple fractures in both legs.

The plaintiff was admitted to Singapore General Hospital the sameafternoon, and at that stage it was noted that he had suffered an openfracture on each of the left and right tibias, and a closed fracture of theleft ankle.
Some time later, in October 1993, he was found to have a neuromaof the right ankle. Dr Yeo Khee Quan, an orthopaedic surgeon whom theplaintiff consulted, opined that there had been severe injury to the rightankle and that it too had probably been fractured.

The plaintiff took some time to recover from his injuries.
He wasonlyable to return to work on 16 March 1993 but even then he suffered from painand recurring problems with infection and residual disability. In court, theplaintiff complained that his legs were still weak and that he experienceddifficulties when moving around. He gave evidence that he had to be carefulnot to put any stress on his legs as if he strained them, the joints wouldswell. He was also unable to squat and, if he tried to do so, he wouldexperience severe pain in his calves. He found great difficulty in climbingstairs and could only do so by moving slowly and walking sideways.

The plaintiff complained that his work has been affected by hisinjuriesin many ways.
He can no longer stand for long periods. After walking for about20 minutes or standing for about an hour or so, he has to take a break due tothe aching in his legs. As he has difficulty in squatting he has to do hiswork at a table and the parts which he is servicing or repairing have to belifted onto the work table for him. He can no longer do many tasks which formpart of the ordinary ship mechanic`s job, for example, carrying heavyobjects or climbing up into cranes and vehicles.

The plaintiff also has problems with tightening and looseninglargescrews and bolts which job invol ves the use of his legs to provide thenecessary leverage.
He explained that in the maintenance and repair of largemachinery and vehicles such work is required as parts have to be dismantled orinstalled. As a result of his disability, most of his work now involves thewashing and servicing of parts while the dismantling and installation areperformed by his co-workers. In the plaintiff`s judgment, his workperformance has been drastically affected by the accident.

Dr Yeo confirmed the plaintiff`s evidence.
In his opinion,theplaintiff`s left leg had healed fairly well. The main problem was withthe plaintiff`s right leg which became infected and went into non-unionand required bone grafting. This had resulted in a painful leg. There was alsodistortion in his right ankle which was consistent with the stiffness,persistent pain and recurrent swelling experienced by the plaintiff. In DrYeo`s view, it was unlikely that the plaintiff would be able to do workwhich involved prolonged standing, bending and lifting of heavy weights. Ifhis job as a mechanic required such activities the plaintiff would find itimpossible to carry on with his normal work. He would also be unable to worklong hours if the pain was disturbing. Dr Yeo also testified that in thefuture the plaintiff might have problems doing even the lighter jobs which amechanic does.

At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was classed as a grade1mechanic by the defendants.
He had a basic monthly salary of $1,370 and healso often worked overtime. For the first nine months of 1991, he earned anadditional $9,047 as overtime pay. This, however, was more than the overtimehe had earned in the preceding years and especially in 1990 when his...

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10 cases
  • Lai Wai Keong Eugene v Loo Wei Yen
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 29 May 2014
    ...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 Isla......
  • Lai Wai Keong Eugene v Loo Wei Yen
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 29 May 2014
    ...have had a further working life of between 30 and 35 years but for the accident (at [9]). In Neo Kim Seng v Clough Petrosea Pte Ltd [1996] 2 SLR(R) 413, the High Court adopted a multiplier of six for a plaintiff who was 48 years old at the time of the assessment hearing. In doing so, the co......
  • Choong Peng Kong v Koh Hong Son
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 23 June 2003
    ...Teo Sing Keng v Sim Ban Kiat [1994] 1 SLR 634, Wee Sia Tian v Long Thik Boon [1996] 3 SLR 513 and Neo Kim Seng v Clough Petrosea Pte Ltd [1996] 3 SLR 522. 15 For these reasons, both appeals before me were dismissed. ANNEXURE Special damages 1 Claim for motorcycle (a) Repairs : $3,300 (Agree......
  • Quek Yen Fei Kenneth (by his litigation representative Pang Choy Chun) v Yeo Chye Huat and another appeal
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 24 April 2017
    ...the assessment of damages) would be expected to have a remaining working life of 43 years. In Neo Kim Seng v Clough Petrosea Pte Ltd [1996] 2 SLR(R) 413, the Singapore High Court observed at [15] that a manual worker would typically enjoy a shorter working life compared to a white collar wo......
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