Singapore woman who fell into open manhole accepts settlement offer after suing PUB for S$5m

Lawyers from PUB said on November 26, 2020 that Chan Hui Peng’s solicitors accepted the offer to settle the lawsuit after the hearing for the trial ended for the day. — TODAY pic
Lawyers from PUB said on November 26, 2020 that Chan Hui Peng’s solicitors accepted the offer to settle the lawsuit after the hearing for the trial ended for the day. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Nov 27 — After four days of hearing for a trial at the High Court, a 47-year-old woman who sued national water agency PUB for about S$5 million (RM15.2 million) has decided to throw in the towel and accept a confidential settlement offer.

PUB’s lawyers from WhiteFern LLC told TODAY in an email late yesterday evening that Chan Hui Peng’s solicitors accepted the offer after the trial ended for the day.

Chan, a qualified chartered accountant, was suing the statutory board over her fall into a 1.8m-deep open manhole near Kovan on December 1, 2015.

Three PUB officers were inspecting the manhole at the time.She suffered an ankle fracture and several contusions and abrasions. 

She was on the way to pick up some food items and was walking along a pedestrian path when she fell feet-first into the manhole around the intersection of Simon Road and Upper Serangoon Road.

Some of the damages she was claiming in the lawsuit were for personal injuries that included psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder.

Some of the key questions that the trial was meant to resolve was whether she truly suffered from these illnesses and whether the schizophrenia — a major psychotic illness where patients suffer symptoms of delusions and hallucinations and display abnormal behaviour — arose from the accident.

Chan had claimed that her husband was an evil spirit. She had also pushed a bamboo pole out the window of her flat, and reportedly prayed and screamed in the shower, among other incidents.

She was seeking a 'just claim'

Yesterday morning, K. Anparasan, one of PUB’s lawyers, confirmed with Chan that she was still pursuing the claim.

She had originally sought almost S$20 million in damages, but slashed it to a quarter of that on Monday.

She told the court yesterday that she was “seeking for a fair and just claim according to the law.” “Money does not even start to compensate me for my loss of mental state, loss of well-being and loss of good health,” she added, after asking Judicial Commissioner Andre Maniam to “control Mr Anparasan’s unprofessional behaviour.”

The lawyer said that he would not ask her to withdraw her claim, then took Chan through the events of July to October last year. This is when she alleged that her schizophrenia symptoms appeared.

He argued that she was mentally functional to conduct her own case then — she was not represented by lawyers at the time.

Asking for changes in medical report

Grace Tan, another lawyer from PUB’s team, then cross-examined her in the afternoon, focusing on her purported mental illness and taking her through psychiatry notes from Tan Tock Seng Hospital from April to December 2016.

She argued that Chan tried to ask a psychologist to amend medical reports.

The psychologist refused to do so, standing by her opinion that while Chan suffered from symptoms of PTSD, it did not amount to a full-blown disorder.

The trial was meant to proceed today. However, at about 10pm yesterday, Chan’s lawyers — Ivan Lee and Letchamanan Devadason from Legalstandard LLP — accepted the offer to settle the lawsuit.

The offer was made on November 10 and its terms cannot be disclosed.

Tan said in her email that this saved another seven days of trial and cross-examination of expert witnesses on schizophrenia, and that they will seek costs against Chan for the legal proceedings arising from her conduct and late acceptance of the offer.

The parties will address the issues of costs before Judicial Commissioner Maniam on Friday, after which Chan will file a notice of discontinuance against PUB. — TODAY

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