Singapore—Madam Chan Hui Peng, the woman suing PUB for $5 million after she fell into an open manhole in 2015, is facing an uphill climb, as lawyers for the national water agency grill her over the claims she has made.
Mdm Chan, 47, says that she sustained physical and psychological injuries, including schizophrenia.
However, the lead counsel for PUB’s insurers, Mr K. Anparasan, said that she “has a proclivity to obtain and amend medical evidence to her satisfaction” and that she “has made a mountain out of a molehill and has seized the opportunity to capitalise on the injuries she allegedly sustained because of the accident,” according to a report from the straitstimes.com.
During the trial on Tuesday (Nov 24) the lawyer said she was faking her mental illness, noting that in July, while she was confined at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), she was still able to ask for her cellphone so she could talk to her lawyers regarding her suit against the national water agency.
He cited IMH clinical notes that showed she had the presence of mind to ask for her cellphone on July 16.
Mdm Chang told a different story, however, saying, “I’ve been inside for three weeks without contacting a soul outside, my lawyers are looking desperately for me.”
The victim added that it had been her husband who sent the text messages, and that she could only use the phone to retrieve contact details and under the supervision of IMH staff.
On Wednesday (Nov 25), at the continuation of the trial, defence lawyers confronted Mdm Chan concerning her account from the online marketplace Carousell, showing she has gotten good reviews for over three years.
One of the defendant’s lawyers, Grace Tan, said that while Mdm Chan claimed that falling into the manhole has left her wary of meeting strangers, she has, in fact, met a number of buyers, who went on to leave good reviews about her.
Her Carousell account was started in April 2017, which was also when the victim began seeing a psychiatrist.
“You have no issues meeting with strangers to sell things, but you are telling your psychologist and psychiatrist you are wary about meeting new people,” said Ms Tan.
Mdm Chan answered back, “My psychiatrists and psychologists all encourage me to have a normal life, to go and meet people, be friendly, punctual and pleasant.”
At another point in the trial, she was asked by Mr Anparasan, “Will your lies stop today?”
She answered, “I’m not lying but sure.”
Mdm Chan, a chartered accountant, had said that she had a monthly salary of S$11,500 at the time of her accident, which is the basis for her claim of loss of earnings of over S$1 million.
The defence questioned this, pointing out that Mdm Chan controlled the firm where she worked, and that her mother-in-law is a former director while her husband is a proxy for the shareholder.
She claimed on Tuesday not to know Tan Yew Tiak, a current shareholder, but admitted the following day that he’s actually her uncle.
On the morning of Dec 1, 2015, Mdm Chan fell into a manhole that was almost two metres deep. The manhole was open at that time as it was undergoing inspection.
No warning signs or barricades were put in the area to indicate an open manhole.
Mdm Chan said three PUB officers were standing directly in front of her, a wall was on her left and metal cabinets for electrical cables were to her right. Having no space to go around the three men, she kept going and fell into the open manhole.
The PUB officers managed to get her out quickly and took her to a clinic for immediate treatment. She was referred by the clinic to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, where she was admitted for a broken bone near her right ankle, contusions on her hip, trauma, and other related injuries.
However, Mdm Chan continued to suffer physical and mental health issues and her condition affected her work long after the incident. In March 2017, she obtained psychiatric help and further treatment at Mount Elizabeth Hospital. She also said she had lost a post as a chief financial officer in 2016. -/TISG