20 July 2018
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Widow's suit against SMRT and LTA settled

Straits Times
12 Jul 2018
K.C. Vijayan

Case would have addressed question of liability when driverless trains kill someone

A High Court suit by a widow against SMRT Light Rail and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) over her husband's death has been settled out of court by mutual agreement.

Madam Lee Yoong Cheng, whose husband was run over by two driverless LRT trains, sought damages for alleged negligence - a claim which SMRT Light Rail and LTA denied in court papers filed earlier.

The court settlement spares the knotty question of where liability lies when a driverless train runs over a commuter which this test case could perhaps address in some other possible occasion.

Mr Ang Boon Tong, 43, fell on the tracks while he was walking on the LRT platform at Fajar station at 12.42am on March 24 last year. At 12.48am, a train pulled up and ran over him. Its sole passenger, an SMRT employee, heard a noise but did not investigate. The train was about to leave but it stalled, so a station controller was alerted and he activated a switch that enabled the train to proceed.

Another train pulled up nine minutes later, and this time, the station controller, who was on the platform, noticed that the carriage jerked upwards. After the train left, he saw Mr Ang's body on the tracks and alerted the operations control centre.

The coroner's inquiry last August heard that Mr Ang died of multiple injuries and ruled the death a "truly tragic misadventure".

It emerged that when Mr Ang, a cook, fell off the platform, he was in an intoxicated state. The inquiry noted that he had the equivalent of almost three times the alcohol limit for motorists.

Madam Lee had claimed that SMRT Light Rail and the LTA breached their statutory or common law duty of care, which led to Mr Ang's death, according to court papers filed in the suit then by Hoh Law Corp lawyer N. Srinivasan.

But SMRT Light Rail and LTA, in court papers filed then by WhiteFern lawyer K. Anparasan, countered, among other things, that Mr Ang caused the accident by failing to be alert to his surroundings and not taking reasonable care of his own well-being, given that he was intoxicated at the time.

An LTA spokesman, responding to The Straits Times on the deal, said: "The Land Transport Authority will continue to work closely with SMRT to enhance safety at LRT platforms.

"This includes ongoing trials of a video analytics system which is able to alert SMRT staff of any unauthorised entry onto the tracks."

Mr Srinivasan said: "Our client is glad that the matter has been amicably resolved. It has provided her with closure on this incident, enabling her to move forward with her family."

Both lawyers said that the case was settled without any admission of liability. It is understood the terms of the settlement are confidential.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.