Botched liposuction: Doctors to pay $756,000 in legal costs
The negligent doctors implicated in the first liposuction death in Singapore have been ordered to pay some $756,000 in legal costs as assessed by a High Court registrar.
Assistant Registrar (AR) James Elisha Lee, in decision grounds last week, acknowledged the technical and medical complexities of the case, the documents prepared and the skills and time required of the lawyers, among other things, in awarding costs.
The costs relate to proceedings triggered by a botched liposuction procedure on Mr Franklin Heng undertaken by Dr Wong Meng Hang at his Orchard Road clinic in December 2009.
Dr Wong had given Mr Heng, 44, too much sedative during the procedure. When left unattended later, Mr Heng suffocated when his airway collapsed due to the heavy sedation. It was Singapore's first recorded death as a result of aesthetic treatment.
A coroner's inquiry and a civil lawsuit followed. In 2016, the Court of Appeal ordered Dr Wong and Dr Zhu Xiu Chun, who assisted him, to pay $3.29 million in total damages to Mr Heng's family and estate.
The Singapore Medical Council brought disciplinary proceedings against the doctors, who pleaded guilty to professional misconduct.
Last week, the Court of Three Judges ordered Dr Wong to be struck off the register and Dr Zhu to be suspended for 18 months.
Senior Counsel Kuah Boon Theng and lawyer Felicia Chain filed the Bill of Costs for the court's taxation in July, citing the complex medical issues that counsel had to work through to present its case for Rockwills Trustee, who had sued the doctors as administrators of the late Mr Heng's estate and for his family.
This included document preparations in the run-up to the issue of liability in the High Court before the defendants withdrew and conceded liability a month before the 20-day trial was due to start.
In the six-day assessment of damages hearing that followed, Ms Kuah said this was the first case to be heard involving a claim for loss of inheritance or savings which had been allowed following changes to the Civil Law Act.
Lawyers Melvin See and Edward Leong for the defendants disputed the quantum sought for the various items as being excessive, among other things.
The total sum awarded for disbursements was $433,906, while another $320,000 was granted for lawyers' work.
A further $2,500 was added for the two taxation hearings before AR Lee.
It is understood the $756,406 to be paid to Mr Heng's estate will be settled by the defendants' insurers, who also paid the $3.2 million in the civil lawsuit.