Landmark ruling paves way for $3 million lawsuit

by Miklos Bolza30 Mar 2016
The Court of Appeals has upheld a ruling which may have real ramifications for employers and sets the precedent for claims made under the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA).
 
This ongoing legal battle began when Tan Yun Yeow was seriously injured in an electrical explosion in 2009. He was left in a comatose state for almost a year and can now only nod and shake his head.
 
In 2010, Yun Yeow was awarded $225,000 in damages: the maximum sum under WICA. Two years’ later, his brother, Rodney Tan, was appointed by the courts under the Mental Capacity Act and took the case further on Yun Yeow’s behalf.
 
Rodney’s lawyer asserted that Yun Yeow never applied for compensation, which makes the initial notice of assessment null and void. In 2013, Rodney filed for a $3 million High Court suit against three defendants including Yun Yeow’s previous employer.
 
However, the Commissioner for Labour ruled that the 2010 letter remained valid. Furthermore, since workers cannot sue for additional damages after receiving compensation under WICA, the Commissioner also claimed Rodney was unable to pursue the case further.
 
The Commissioner’s views changed in 2014 after consultation with the Attorney General. She then declared that since Yun Yeow had no capacity to make a decision in 2010, only a representative appointed by the courts could act on his behalf. While Rodney did indeed act in this capacity, this was only from 2012, two years after compensation was awarded.
 
An appeal by the insurer has now been dismissed in the Court of Appeal. The Second Solicitor General, Kewk Mean Luck, said the insurer was attempting to force the injured worker to accept compensation he never elected to claim. This therefore deprived him of his right to claim for damages through the proper legal channels.
 
The Court of Appeal will deliver written grounds at a later date.
 
This ruling creates more clarity around how courts are likely to treat claims involving mentally incapacitated workers.
 
Related stories:
 
Landmark case: Injured worker sues for $3m
 
Injured worker ends up biggest loser after winning court case
 
MOM announces new changes to work injury compensation

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