Singapore Bus Service Ltd v Lim Swee Pheng & Sons (Pte) Ltd

Judgment Date13 November 1979
Date13 November 1979
Docket NumberSuit No 2058 of 1977,Civil Appeal No 35 of 1979
CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
Singapore Bus Service Ltd
Lim Swee Pheng & Sons (Pte) Ltd

[1979] SGCA 19

Wee Chong Jin CJ


F A Chua J


A P Rajah J

Civil Appeal No 35 of 1979

Court of Appeal

Employment Law–Workmen's Compensation Act 1975 (Act 25 of 1975)–Employer paid compensation as required by the Act–Employer sought indemnity from party liable to pay damages–Whether indemnity limited to amount recoverable in action for damages–Section 18 Workmen's Compensation Act 1975 (Act 25 of 1975)

The respondent was the employer of a person who was killed in an accident involving a vehicle driven by the appellant's servant. The respondent claimed from the appellant an indemnity under s 18 of the Workmen's Compensation Act 1975 (Act 25 of 1975) for assessed compensation paid to the “dependants” of the deceased person. It was found at first instance that the respondent was so entitled to be indemnified, although the “dependants” in question were persons who were not in fact dependent on the deceased's earnings. It was argued on appeal that the indemnity under s 18 is limited to the amount of damages which the deceased workman or his dependants could have recovered in an action for damages.

Held, dismissing the appeal:

Under s 18, the employer is entitled to be indemnified to the whole amount of the compensation which he has to pay under the Workman's Compensation Act. Section 18 does not limit the indemnity to the amount that may be recovered by legal action outside the Workman's Compensation Act: at [7] to [9].

Workmen's Compensation Act 1975 (Act 25 of 1975) ss 2, 6, 7, 18 and Third Schedule

Cheong Yuen Hee (Chan Goh & Co) for the appellant

Christopher Lau Loke Sam (Cooma Lau & Loh) for the respondent.

Judgment reserved.

Wee Chong Jin CJ

(delivering the judgment of the court):

1 On 14 June 1976 a lorry driver in the employ of Lim Swee Pheng & Sons Pte Ltd was driving his employer's lorry number Y9321H along Upper Thomson Road, when it broke down. He got out of the lorry and when he was underneath it to try and repair it a bus belonging to Singapore Bus Service Ltd (the appellants in this appeal) collided with the stationary lorry in attempting to overtake it. As a result of the collision the lorry lurched forward and the lorry driver sustained injuries from which he subsequently died.

2 The Commissioner under the Workmen's Compensation Act 1975 (“the Act”) assessed the compensation payable under the Act to the “dependants” of the deceased lorry driver in the sum of $31,514.40. The deceased's employers, being obliged to pay under the Act, paid the assessed compensation and commenced the present action against Singapore Bus Service Ltd claiming to be indemnified in respect of the said sum of $31,514.40. The claim to be indemnified is based upon the provisions of s 18 of the Act which reads as follows:

Where any injury for which compensation is payable under this Act was caused under circumstances creating a legal liability in some person other than the employer to pay damages in respect thereof –

  1. (a) the workman may take proceedings against that person to recover damages and may claim against any person liable to pay compensation under this Act, but he shall not be entitled to recover both damages and compensation; and

  2. (b) if the workman has recovered compensation under this Act, the person by whom the compensation was paid … shall be entitled to be indemnified by the person so liable to pay damages as aforesaid.

3 Choor Singh J found that the driver of the bus was negligent in overtaking the stationary lorry and was solely to blame. Choor Singh J also found, on the true construction of s 18 (b)of the Act, that the deceased's employers, having established that the appellants' servant was solely to blame, was entitled to be indemnified by the appellants to the extent of the compensation paid by them to the deceased's dependants. It was not in dispute that the deceased left surviving him two sons who were not dependent on his earnings. Choor Singh J held that the expression “shall be entitled to be indemnified...

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    ...Union Assurance Pte ltd v Chua Kim Bak [1999] 1 SLR 553, which referred to Singapore Bus Service Limited v Lim Swee Peng & Sons Pte Ltd [1979] SGCA 19. Cosmic Insurance Corp Ltd v United Oil Pte Ltd [2006] SGHC 85 should not be followed; Chua Bak Kim ought to be preferred. A contrary approa......
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