Singapore—Chan Hui Peng, who fell into a manhole on a footpath in Simon Road near Kovan in 2015, is suing PUB, the country’s national water agency for negligence.
Ms Chan sustained long-term injuries and received psychiatric treatment for over two years, as well as discontinued her work as a chartered accountant after the incident, the Straits Times (ST) reports court documents as showing.
The victim is allegedly seeking millions of dollars in damages from PUB.
On the morning of December 1, 2015, Ms Chan fell into a drain that was almost two metres deep and the drain cover was open at that time, as it was undergoing inspection.
No warning signs or barricades had been put in the area to indicate an open manhole.
Ms Chan said that there were three officers from PUB standing directly in front of her, the Kovan 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.
She claimed that her vision was obstructed since the stone boundary wall of Kovan Residences condominium blocked her line of sight and that a tree also put the manhole in its shadow. The bright sunlight also served to dim her vision, Ms Chan claimed.
The officers managed to get her out quickly and brought her to a clinic for immediate treatment. She was referred by the clinic to go to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, where she was confined for a broken bone near her right ankle, contusions on her hip, trauma, and other related injuries.
By March 2017, Ms Chan got some psychiatric help and further treatment at Mount Elizabeth Hospital. She has been on medical leave for two years and ten months, which includes all of 2018 and 658 days of hospitalisation leave, given by her psychiatrist.
Ms Chan is seeking the amount of damages based on her estimated claims, which include the potential for motherhood, income losses, psychiatric disorders, future medical costs, pain and suffering as well as S$665,000 in special damages already incurred for medical treatment and additional expenses.
PUB has denied breach of duty of care, arguing that anyone would have seen that the hatch was open, and that Ms Chan contributed to her own negligence wholly or in part.
The national water agency has said that the manhole could be clearly seen by people passing by who were keeping a reasonable lookout.
The three PUB officers had opened the manhole for inspections, with one staying as a lookout for passersby and two entering the manhole. After the inspection, the two who had gone in reemerged and the three officers were discussing the need for more inspections as they stood beside the manhole.
According to court documents, while PUB said it would examine its safety procedures, visit Ms Chan, and had sent her a hamper, it had not issued an admission of liability for negligence.
The note from PUB that accompanied the hamper read, “Please accept this hamper as a small gesture of our apology.”
The case will resume in January for case management. -/TISG
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