Woman loses claim for more than $60k against town council
A 71-year-old woman who sued the Holland-Bukit Panjang Town Council for more than $60,000 after she stepped into an uncovered part of a drain has lost her case after the judge decided it was unlikely for anyone to have fallen.
The town council, in defending its case, said Madam Chan Chui Yoke’s fall was the only such accident in the last 20 years as far as it knew.
In the 2021 incident in Bangkit Road, the drain had been left partially uncovered to facilitate cleaning and to prevent mosquito breeding in accordance with National Environment Agency guidelines, a property manager for the town council testified.
Said District Judge Teo Guan Kee: “Having regard to the limited likelihood of a person falling into the uncovered perimeter drain and suffering a significant injury, and balancing that against the consideration that the perimeter drain was left uncovered for a cogent and supportable reason, consistent with a practice commonly adopted by town councils, I am of the view that the defendant did not fall short of the duty of care which it owed to the plaintiff.”
In the suit, Madam Chan contended that she fell into the drain because the town council’s failure to properly clean the drain made it difficult to differente between the “dirty drain” and drain covers.
It was alleged that the town council negligently caused the accident by failing to cover the drains, failing to clean the drain covers and failing to warn residents or prevent them from crossing the drain.
Madam Chan, then 69, fell into the drain, which is near the block where she lives, on Feb 8, 2021.
She had crossed over the 25cm-wide, 36cm-deep drain from the pedestrian walkway to a turfed area to water some plants.
But as she was crossing back to the walkway, she accidentally stepped into the drain. She hit her face on the pavement and landed on her right hand.
Madam Chan, who was represented by Mr Muhammad Hariz Tahi of Clifford Law, fractured her right middle finger and tore her left Achilles tendon.
A witness who testified for Madam Chan, who has been living there since 1988, said he had seen people crossing over the drain but had not seen anyone fall.
The town council, represented by Ms Grace Tan of WhiteFern, admitted that it owed a duty of care to Madam Chan at the time of the accident, but contended that it did not breach this duty of care.
Ms Tan also highlighted that the drain was not intended as a means of access to the turfed area and that there were pavements and walkways which could have been used instead.
The judge, who issued his judgment, on Feb 17, said that while there was algae on the drain and drain covers, it was not clear that this increased the likelihood of someone stepping into the drain. The fact that there were no warning signs or barricade did not help Madam Chan.
“Put simply, despite the absence of warnings or barricades, no one has been known to suffer the kind of accident which now forms the basis of the plaintiff’s action,” he said.
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