Rajendran a/l Palany v Dril-Quip Asia Pacific Pte Ltd

JurisdictionSingapore
JudgeChao Hick Tin JA
Judgment Date11 May 2001
Neutral Citation[2001] SGCA 37
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No 126 of 2000
Date11 May 2001
Published date19 September 2003
Year2001
Plaintiff CounselUtehkumar Seethuraju and Gokula Kannan (SK Kumar & Associates)
Citation[2001] SGCA 37
Defendant CounselSimon Yuen (Tan & Lim)
CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
Subject MatterDefence,Civil Procedure,Pleadings,O 18 r 8(1) Rules of Court,Requirement for defence to be specifically pleaded,Contributory negligence

JUDGMENT:

Grounds of Judgment

1. The appellant, who was an employee of the respondents since January 1994, sustained personal injuries in the course of his work on 15 May 1998 and brought an action to claim damages from his employers, the respondents, for a breach of duty. The learned trial judge found that the injuries were caused by the work carried out on that day by the appellant on the instruction of the respondents. However, the trial judge also found that the appellant had contributed to the injuries sustained to the extent of 60% and thus reduced the quantum of damages which the appellant was entitled to by the same proportion. As agreed at the commencement of the trial, assessment of damages was to be undertaken later by the Registrar. Being dissatisfied with the determination that he was contributorily negligent, the appellant appealed. At the conclusion of the hearing of the appeal, we set aside the finding of contributory negligence and held that the respondents were 100% liable for the injuries. We now give our reasons.

The facts

2. The appellant, aged 33 at the time of the incident, was employed as an Assembly Mechanic with the respondents, who were in the business of, inter alia, manufacturing and repairing oilfield and gas field machinery equipment. The appellant started work with the respondents in January 1994 as a General Helper. The equipment included heavy and long pipes and connector forgings ("connectors"), which were metal rings used to connect the ends of metal pipes. Each connector weighed about 45 kilograms.

3. On 15 May 1998, the appellant, together with one other worker, Raman, was instructed to stack and move connectors which were then lying at the respondents yard at No 3, Tuas Avenue. He started work that day at 8.00am. He was instructed by the respondents Operations Manager, Mr Doug Harrison, to load the connectors onto pallets, up to five levels high. The connectors were separated at each level by a wooden plank. When each pallet was fully stacked, it was to be moved away by the use of a fork-lift.

4. On that day, there was considerable urgency in getting the connectors removed to other designated places as the space in the yard on which the connectors were then placed was needed to receive and store a huge quantity of long pipes which were scheduled to arrive by trucks the next morning, at about 11.00am, from the Port of Singapore under police escort. Thus the removal of the connectors had to be completed before the long pipes arrived. As the trial judge found "all possible delays had to be avoided, as the trucking out times and their arrivals were all pre-arranged; no changes could be made without a lot of trouble and inconvenience."

5. At about 10.00am that day, having noted that the pace of stacking of the connectors by the appellant and Raman were not as rapid as Mr Harrison had wished, he brought two other workers to help them. Still later, upon returning to the site at about 2.30pm, he noticed that only about half the quantity of connectors had been stacked and he also noticed that they had used the forklift to stack the connectors onto the pallets. As the process of using the forklift to stack the connectors was slow, he asked them to lift and stack the connectors manually. Realising then that there were only 2 hours left before knock-off time for the workers, Mr Harrison set an example himself by getting into the act and helping in the stacking.

6. The trial judge found that the workers, upon seeing Mr Harrison "putting his shoulder to the plough", understandably exerted themselves far more than they would have done otherwise. They tried to keep up with Mr Harrisons rate of stacking. The work was eventually done. But what is important to note is that Mr Harrison is a much larger and stronger person, with a height of 6 feet 4 inches. The other workers, including the appellant, did not have this kind of physique.

7. It is clear that the work of stacking the connectors was a heavy one as it involved lifting them onto the pallets. There was evidence that all the workers, including the appellant, were instructed on how to go about stacking the connectors to bend their knees, instead of their back, when lifting the connectors. Nevertheless, the trial judge found that the respondents did not have in place a safe system of work in an emergency such as this, where a deadline had to be met. He said:-

Knowing that the pipes were arriving, more workers could have been employed to clear, stack and palletise the connectors. They should have started earlier and the heavy work could have been done without unduly straining the back of the workers. When a worker was rushed, he was prone to short circuit the process of bending his knees and lifting the connectors. If more workers had been deployed, then Mr Harrison could have insisted that two workers lift each connector and stack them, especially stacking them at the 4th and 5th level, which inevitably strained the backs of the workers.

8. On the next day, 16 May 1998, Mr Harrison offered the workers, including the appellant, overtime work relating to the unloading and stacking of the 60 feet long pipes. Although the appellant was, because of the previous days strenuous work, suffering a severe backache, he nevertheless volunteered because he was needed to drive the larger forklift.

9. The trial judge accepted the medical evidence adduced that the appellant suffered a prolapse of the disc on 15 May 1998 as a result of having to stack the heavy connectors under extreme pressure of time.

10. Having come to the conclusion that in the circumstances the respondents had failed to provide a safe system of work, the trial judge nevertheless held the appellant to be contributorily negligent and was 60% to be blamed. His reasons...

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6 cases
  • TV Media Pte Ltd v De Cruz Andrea Heidi and Another Appeal
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 8 July 2004
    ...TV Media did not plead the defence of contributory negligence below. We ruled in Rajendran a/l Palany v Dril-Quip Asia Pacific Pte Ltd [2001] 3 SLR 274 at [19]–[20] that if the defence of contributory negligence was not pleaded below, or if the facts pleaded below were not sufficiently clea......
  • Koh Toi Choi v Lim Geok Hong
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 29 May 2007
    ...Lee Kuan Yew v Tang Liang Hong [1997] 2 SLR (R) 862; [1997] 3 SLR 489 (refd) Rajendran a/l Palany v Dril-Quip Asia Pacific Pte Ltd [2001] 1 SLR (R) 887; [2001] 3 SLR 274 (refd) Soh Lup Chee v Seow Boon Cheng [2004] SGHC 8 (refd) Tokai Maru, The [1998] 2 SLR (R) 646; [1998] 3 SLR 105 (refd) ......
  • Cheng William v Allister Lim & Thrumurgan and another and another appeal
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 16 March 2015
    ...of this requirement is to ensure that the other side is not taken by surprise (Rajendran a/l Palany v Dril-Quip Asia Pacific Pte Ltd [2001] 1 SLR(R) 887 at [17]–[19], approving Fookes v Slaytor [1979] 1 All ER 137). Can a failure on a part to inform his solicitor of information amount to co......
  • TV Media Pte Ltd v De Cruz Andrea Heidi and Another Appeal
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • 8 July 2004
    ...TV Media did not plead the defence of contributory negligence below. We ruled in Rajendran a/l Palany v Dril-Quip Asia Pacific Pte Ltd [2001] 3 SLR 274 at [19]–[20] that if the defence of contributory negligence was not pleaded below, or if the facts pleaded below were not sufficiently clea......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • Civil Procedure
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2001, December 2001
    • 1 December 2001
    ...to make a determination of the question posed by the plaintiff. Pleadings 6.59 In Rajendran a/l Palany v Dril-Quip Asia Pacific Pte Ltd[2001] 3 SLR 274, the Court of Appeal held that contributory negligence was a defence which had to be specifically pleaded pursuant to Ord 18 r 8(1). A tria......
  • Tort Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2004, December 2004
    • 1 December 2004
    ...a novus actus interveniens. The Court of Appeal also referred to its decision in Rajendran a/l Palany v Dril-Quip Asia Pacific Pte Ltd[2001] 3 SLR 274 where it held that if the defence of contributory negligence was not pleaded below or if the facts pleaded were not sufficiently clear that ......

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