Injured worker ends up biggest loser after winning court case

by Miklos Bolza30 Sep 2015
An injured employee who rejected an offer of compensation for S$50,000 has ended up with heavy financial costs despite taking the case to court and winning.
 
Originally from China, Wang Jianbin was a construction worker for Hong De Development. After sustaining injuries on his right forearm, neck and forehead in an accident with a metal pipe in July 2011, the company offered to settle.
 
Wang rejected the offer, instead taking the case all the way to the High Court where he was awarded over S$37,000 worth of damages and loss of earnings.
 
His employer and the contractor accepted 80% of the blame for the injury before the Assistant Registrar (AR). Wang was then awarded S$28,000 for pain and suffering plus S$2,000 for future medical expenses.
 
Justice Choo Han Teck also awarded a sum of almost S$7,800 for loss of earnings for the period Wang was on medical leave in Singapore until he moved back to China.
 
The AR also ordered the defence to pay Wang S$5,500 in legal costs from the time the suit was filed to when the offer to settle was made in October 2014.
 
However, since the sum awarded was less than the original cost of settlement, Wang was also ordered to pay for the full costs of the defence lawyers. This amounted to S$23,000.
 
During the case, the AR found poor evidence for any permanent disability as Wang’s injuries had all healed with the only residual symptoms being headaches, dizziness and some numbness in his arm.
 
She said Wang was “making up evidence in the witness box” and commented that the medical evidence provided didn’t prevent him from working. Despite this, he had made no attempt to find a job in the two years since he had moved back to China.
 
Justice Choo said the AR was “generous” in awarding Wang the S$2,000 for future earnings as he wasn’t satisfied he would incur those costs with the scant evidence provided.
 
“[Having] realised the inadequacies of his evidence and his case, [Wang] is hoping to overcome them not with evidence but a plea that the court should find it reasonable to accept that many of the missing evidence could and should be assumed,” defence lawyer, Ramesh Appoo, said.
 
In total, the compensation for pain, future medical expenses and loss of earnings meant the overall sum for Wang was over S$37,000. With the employer taking 80% of the blame, Wang therefore only received around S$30,000.
 
Subtracting S$23,000 for the defence lawyer’s fees left him with approximately S$7,000 to cover the payment for his own lawyer.
 
Justice Choo stated that Wang had rejected a “generous” offer to settle and that the AR was within her rights to order indemnity costs.
 
“The award of costs on that scale is an important aspect of the idea behind the offer to settle. If a litigant believes that he is entitled to more, then he must accept the consequences if he fails,” he said.
 
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