An appeal involving a cyclist who was awarded $8.65 million in damages after she was struck by falling cables while several months pregnant was dismissed by the Court of Appeal for both sides following a hearing on Monday (21 August).
Siew Pick Chiang, 43, was awarded what was said to be the biggest payout in a negligence claim in Singapore in her case against Hyundai Engineering, the contractor in charge of the worksite from which the cables fell. After the assessment of damages in 2016, both Siew and Hyundai Engineering filed an appeal against the amount awarded.
The accident occurred on 15 October 2009 as Siew was cycling along the pavement on Pasir Ris Drive 8. Although her physical injuries were minor, Siew’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from the accident was so severe that one of her psychiatrists claimed it was one of the worst cases she has ever treated.
In court documents, Siew is said to be suffering from “recurrent and distressing memories and dreams of the incident” and “intense and prolonged psychological distress” at being exposed to things that resemble aspects of the accident, among other symptoms.
When asked to describe the Siew’s medical condition, her lawyer Chong Pik Wah said that her client suffers meltdowns where she would be “out of control”, including screaming and throwing things around. Siew, who was present in court for her appeal hearing in a wheelchair, also became afraid of loud noises after the accident.
Before the accident, Siew worked as an administrative executive in her mother’s business, Love Care Professional, which provides medical travel, pre- and post-natal care services. However, she has been unable to work since the accident.
The court heard that Siew, who was last admitted into Mount Elizabeth Hospital in February 2014, was only discharged last month. Before this particular stretch, she was admitted into Gleneagles Hospital and Mount Elizabeth Hospital some 18 times between 2009 and 2013.
Siew was due to be married in December 2009 but the marriage was called off after the accident. She successfully gave birth to a son in April 2010.
Justice Woo Bih Li, who earlier found Hyundai Engineering to be fully liable for the damages, had ordered $8.65 million to be paid to Siew, including loss of future earnings, medical costs and non-medical expenses. Siew originally sought $26 million in damages.
In Monday’s hearing before a three-judge panel, Chong argued that more money should be awarded to her client for the travel expenses Siew incurred while keeping her outpatient appointments between April 2014 and February 2016. Justice Woo had awarded Siew $6,600 in this respect.
When Judge of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang pointed out that Siew was warded in hospital in that period, Chong replied that her client had to visit a physiotherapist that was located outside of the hospital due to the facilities and suitability of treatment.
Chong also challenged Justice Woo’s decision to disallow the expenses for a caregiver for Siew’s son, who is now in primary one.
However, Judge of Appeal Judith Prakash said that provisions would have been made for the child even before the accident, as Siew would have returned to work even after the birth of her son.
Hyundai Engineering’s lawyer, Melvin Chan, submitted that the amount should be discounted because unlike a permanent physical injury, there is still a chance of recovery from PTSD and that Siew had shown some improvement from the time the accident occurred.