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S$5m lawsuit: Woman who fell into manhole accepts earlier settlement offer from PUB

The two sides are discussing costs and will appear before the judge again next week

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Singapore — The woman who fell into an open manhole and sued the PUB has accepted an earlier settlement offer from the national water agency.

Lawyers for Madam Chan Hui Peng, 47, accepted a settlement offer late on Thursday evening (Nov 26) after four days of hearings. The offer had been made on Nov 10 and its terms are confidential, according to channelnewsasia.com.

A lawyer for Mdm Chan was quoted as saying that the victim felt that the offer was “fair”.

Another lawyer, Mr Ivan Lee, who also acted for Mdm Chan, told The Straits Times (ST): “While our client would have liked to press on with the trial, the strain of the litigation over the past four days has taken a toll on her mental health and emotional well-being.”

Mr Lee added that Mdm Chan was choosing to move on with her life.

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The lead counsel for PUB’s insurers, Mr K Anparasan, told ST that Mdm Chan’s acceptance of the settlement offer saved seven days of trial and cross-examination of expert witnesses on schizophrenia, which the victim claimed to have suffered after falling into the manhole in 2015.

The lawyer added that he would be making “strong submissions” regarding the victim’s conduct and how she “thwarted mediation” and dwelt on her claim of having suffered schizophrenia.

“It’s to send a strong signal out there for deterrence, having spent four days in court, what transpired,” channelnewsasia quoted him as saying, adding that it was possible that the costs could “eat into the damages”.

During the hearing on Tuesday (Nov 24), Mr Anparasan said Mdm Chan was faking her mental illness. He noted that in July, while she was at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), she was lucid enough to ask for her handphone so she could talk to her lawyers about her lawsuit.

And on Wednesday (Nov 25), defence lawyers confronted Mdm Chan concerning her account on the online marketplace Carousell, showing she had received good reviews for more than three years.

One of the defendant’s lawyers, Ms Grace Tan, said that while Mdm Chan claimed that falling into the manhole had left her wary of meeting strangers, she had, in fact, met a number of buyers, who went on to leave good reviews about her.

At another point in the trial, Mdm Chan was asked by Mr Anparasan: “Will your lies stop today?”

On Friday morning (Nov 27), the two parties addressed the issue of costs before Judicial Commissioner Andre Maniam. Mdm Chan will then withdraw her claim against the PUB, issuing a notice of discontinuance.

The two sides said they will continue to discuss costs and then appear before the judge again next week for a hearing on costs and other consequential orders, if any.

 

The case

On the morning of Dec 1, 2015, Mdm Chan fell into a manhole in Kovan that was almost two metres deep. It was open at that time as it was undergoing inspection.

There were no warning signs or barricades to indicate an open manhole.

Three PUB officers who were there took her to a clinic, which referred her to Tan Tock Seng Hospital. She was admitted for a broken bone near her right ankle, contusions on her hip, trauma and other related injuries.

Mdm Chan continued to suffer physical and mental health issues and her condition affected her work. She said she lost a post as a chief financial officer in 2016 and obtained psychiatric help and further treatment at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in 2017. /TISG

Read also: Lawyers question woman who fell into manhole, who is now suing PUB for $S5M

Lawyers question woman who fell into manhole, who is now suing PUB for $S5M

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