Sun Delong v Teo Poh Soon and another

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeChoo Han Teck J
Judgment Date07 July 2016
Neutral Citation[2016] SGHC 129
Citation[2016] SGHC 129
Docket NumberSuit No 112 of 2016
Hearing Date03 February 2016,25 April 2016,29 January 2016,28 January 2016,04 September 2015,02 February 2016,03 September 2015
Plaintiff CounselDaljit Singh Sidhu (KSCGP Juris LLP)
Defendant CounselN K Rajarh (Straits Law Practice LLC)
Subject MatterDamages,Assessment,Personal injuries
Published date13 July 2016
Choo Han Teck J:

On 5 December 2012, the plaintiff, Sun Delong (“Sun”), was knocked down by a lorry when he was cycling across Woodlands Avenue 10. He suffered multiple injuries to his head, abdomen, lungs, pelvis and shoulders. A Chinese national, Sun was then 26 years old and working on a work permit in Singapore as a storekeeper and delivery driver at Choo Chiang Marketing Pte Ltd (“CCM”). The lorry driver, Teo Poh Soon (“the 1st defendant”), was driving the lorry in the course of his employment with Simple Craft Interior Trading (the 2nd defendant).

Interlocutory judgment was entered for Sun on 10 November 2014, with liability at 50 per cent against the 1st and/or 2nd defendants jointly and severally. In the present proceedings, the issue before me is to determine the quantum of damages due to Sun. Sun has returned to China since February 2014 and is helping his family to run a provision shop there. He is now 29 years old.

Sun’s claim for general damages for pain and suffering covers head injuries, pelvic / lower limb and shoulder injuries, abdominal injuries, lung injuries, and lacerations and abrasions. His claim for special damages comprises hospital / medical expenses, nursing home charges, transport expenses, cost of caregiver (father’s travel expenses), loss of belongings, and pre-trial loss of earnings. He also claims future loss in costs of future medication and treatment, future transport expenses, and loss of earning capacity / loss of future earnings.

General Damages Head injuries

It is not disputed that Sun suffered the following head injuries as a result of the accident: A linear fracture extending from the squamous portion of the right temporal bone and right parietal bone; A subdural haematoma in the right fronto-parietal region, extending to the right temporal region; A subarachnoid haemorrhage in the underlying fronto-parieto-temporal sulci; and Multiple right temporo-parietal cortical haemorrhagic contusions. The parties also agree that because of the head injuries, Sun had to undergo a decompressive craniectomy and an evacuation of a blood clot on 5 December 2012 (ie on the same day of accident). The decompressive craniectomy caused a large defect on Sun’s right skull and he underwent an elective cranioplasty operation to repair the defect on 30 May 2013.

Sun also claims that after the accident, he has been suffering from frequent headaches, giddiness, vertigo, difficulty in sleeping, and irritability. Further, his cognitive abilities have been affected, and he suffers from poor memory, decreased attention span, and lowered visiospatial/constructional ability. He also says that the accident caused him psychological trauma, such that he is now easily startled or frightened, fearful of riding a bicycle, and suffers from anxiety when crossing a road. In addition, he says that he has an increased risk of developing epilepsy and dementia due to the accident. The 1st and 2nd defendants (collectively “the Defendants”) dispute these claims.

Sun’s expert witness, Dr Chan Keen Loong (PW7) (“Dr Chan”), a senior consultant psychiatrist at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, produced three medical reports dated 17 December 2013, 26 March 2014 and 11 November 2015, and also testified at trial. In his opinion, Sun suffered severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a result of the accident, and his symptoms of frequent headaches, sleep difficulty, giddiness/vertigo, poor attention and irritability are known long-term complications of TBI that may persist for years after the injury with no definitive treatment or cure. Dr Chan also finds that although Sun’s cognitive ability prior to the accident was in the “low average range”, this has deteriorated to the “extremely low range” after the accident. His reports further state that Sun’s “attention is reduced and this may impact on jobs that may require him to have sustained mental focus”, and that “his visuospatial/constructional ability is affected and this may impact on his ability to work at jobs that require him to read plans, construct models or navigate by map”. He finds that Sun’s symptoms of being easily startled or frightened and being anxious while crossing the road do not cause significant impairment and should improve with time, although he may require psychological therapy to overcome his fear of riding a bicycle. Dr Chan is also of the view that Sun has a long term risk of developing epilepsy and dementia as a result of his TBI. Occupational therapist Dr Chan Mei Leng (PW4) says that Sun’s bouts of giddiness and blurred vision make him functionally unfit to drive or ride any motor vehicle, while Heidi Tan (PW5), who is also an occupational therapist, recommends that Sun should limit himself to work that has a light physical demand as his symptoms of frequent headaches and dizziness render him unsuitable for his previous job as a delivery driver. Physiotherapist Cindy Tan (PW6) made similar recommendations that Sun should not resume driving and should avoid lifting heavy loads that weigh more than 4.5kg, in view of Sun’s complaints of giddiness and blurred vision.

The Defendants’ expert witness, Dr Chong Piang Ngok (DW1) (“Dr Chong”), a neurologist in private practice, agrees with Dr Chan that the Plaintiff suffered TBI as a result of the accident. He also agrees that Sun’s complaints of giddiness, headaches, lack of concentration and unsteadiness are all common conditions of a person suffering from TBI. However, he carried out a clinical examination of Sun and found no physical evidence of neurological deficits that would relate to Sun’s complaints. This is consistent with the view of Sun’s expert witness Dr Yang Weiren Eugene (PW3) (“Dr Yang”), who reported Sun as being “alert with no neurological deficits”. Further, Dr Chong also found that Sun is not suffering from any cranial nerve deficit; he says that cranial nerve deficits are readily diagnosed as they have easily observable symptoms (e.g. slurred speech and crossed eyes) but Sun showed no such symptoms when he examined him. Sun did not complain of cognitive problems such as poor memory and short attention span when Dr Chong saw him. Although he did complain of persistent giddiness, Dr Chong found no evidence of unsteadiness when Sun got up to stand and walk during the examination. Sun told Dr Chong that he had daily headaches which felt like “electric” pain. Dr Chong likened this kind of “electric” pain to pain that a patient experiences when a dentist hits a nerve in a tooth; the patient will wince involuntarily. However, Sun neither appeared to be in pain nor showed any discomfort throughout the examination conducted by Dr Chong. As for the risk of Sun developing dementia and epilepsy, Dr Chong says that although he could not rule out any possibility that Sun may develop the conditions in future, the risks are low.

Having considered the testimonies of the expert witnesses, I accept that Sun has suffered TBI as a result of the accident. I also accept that he may be suffering from occasional headaches, sleep difficulty, giddiness/vertigo, and some degree of poorer attention span and greater irritability since according to the expert witnesses, these are known long-term complications of TBI. However, the nature of such conditions is that they can be measured by few, if any, objective tests, and so their diagnosis is much dependent on subjective self-reporting by the patient. Sun had given inconsistent statements to the doctors. For instance, when Sun saw Dr Yang on 11 July 2013, he only complained of “occasional headaches”, “occasional giddiness” and “difficulty in concentration”. When he saw Dr Chan on 11 November 2013, his complaints became that of “frequent headaches” and “frequent dizziness”. Two years later, when Dr Chan examined Sun again on 25 August and 10 September 2015, the headaches and dizziness became “constant”, “persistent” and “daily”. At trial, Sun told the court that he gets headaches two to three times a day and bouts of giddiness every two to three hours both in the morning and in the afternoon daily. Sun’s complaints to various doctors on different occasions go against the evidence of his own expert witness, Dr Yang, who had earlier assessed that his condition is likely to stabilise and unlikely to deteriorate. I also take note of Dr Chong’s evidence that he did not observe any signs of pain and discomfort from Sun during his clinical examination of him. I acknowledge that Dr Chong had only observed Sun for about half an hour, and it may be that Sun was coincidentally not experiencing discomfort during that period of time. Nonetheless, the totality of the evidence leads me to find, on a balance of probabilities, that Sun has exaggerated his symptoms. I therefore give less weight to the evidence of occupational therapists Dr Chan Mei Leng and Heidi Tan and physiotherapist Cindy Tan, as their assessment of Sun’s condition were based mainly on Sun’s self-reported, subjective complaints.

I am not persuaded that Sun’s cognitive ability has deteriorated as a result of the accident. Although Dr Chan wrote in his report of 11 November 2015 that Sun’s cognitive ability deteriorated from being in the “low average range” to the “extremely low range” after the accident, he observed, in the same report, that Sun’s mood was “euthymic (normal)”, that he was “cooperative and polite”, “relevant, lucid and orientated”, and that his speech was clear. The report also stated that Sun was “able to comprehend questions asked of him with no difficulty”, give “prompt and appropriate” responses, and “provide information with an appropriate amount of detail”. Dr Chan further noted that Sun was able to learn new skills, such as installing the sink at his home on his own. These observations are, in my view, inconsistent with Dr Chan’s conclusion that Sun’s cognitive ability was in the “extremely low range”. There are other evidence that suggest that Sun’s cognitive...

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3 cases
  • Minichit Bunhom v Jazali bin Kastari
    • Singapore
    • Court of Appeal (Singapore)
    • 27 April 2018
    ...on the term “non-delegable” that was used in Lee Chiang ThengENR: at [51], [54] and [57]. (5) The court in Sun Delong v Teo Poh Soon[2016] SGHC 129 correctly held that the EFMR did not preclude a victim-foreign employee from recovering the medical expenses occasioned by a third party tort f......
  • Sharma Gautam v Soh Cheow Tiong
    • Singapore
    • District Court (Singapore)
    • 25 June 2018
    ...Kastari and another [2016] SGHC 271 (“Minichit”) rather than anther decision of the High Court in Sun Delong v Teo Poh Soon and another [2016] SGHC 129. In Minichit, the High Court had ruled that the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (“EFMA”) and the relevant EFMA (Work Passes) Regulations......
  • Minichit Bunhom v Jazali bin Kastari and another
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 7 December 2016
    ...that there would be no double recovery by the appellant. Noting that a recent decision of the High Court in Sun Delong v Teo Poh Sun [2016] SGHC 129 (“Sun Delong”) had been adverted to but distinguished by the District Judge, Mr Yuen sought to argue that the District Judge was not entitled ......
1 books & journal articles
  • Tort Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2016, December 2016
    • 1 December 2016
    ...[1974] 17 KIR 1, which referred to the weakening of the plaintiff's competitive position in the labour market as an “existing loss”. 131 [2016] SGHC 129. 132 [2004] SGHC 147 at [7]. 133 Cap 91A, S 569/2012. 134 [1974] QB 454. 135 Donnelly v Joyce [1974] QB 454, applied in Ang Eng Lee v Lim ......

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