Lawsuit against 4 over retired doctor's $5m: Ex-maid fails to file notice of defence

Former doctor Freda Paul, 86, suffers from dementia and now lives in a nursing home.
Former doctor Freda Paul, 86, suffers from dementia and now lives in a nursing home.

It leads to default judgment against her in bid to recover sum from 'enriched' parties

Lawyers for a retired doctor who suffers from dementia have won their case by default against her former maid, one of four people alleged to have enriched themselves by taking advantage of the doctor.

The former maid, Madam A. Kanthimathy, 55, had failed to file notice to defend her case when she was sued, together with Mr K. Malayaperumal and Mr G. Subramaniam, in June for the return of some $5 million - which Dr Freda Paul, a former paediatric doctor at the Singapore General Hospital, is said to have given them in 2010.

Rodyk & Davidson lawyer Calvin Lim told The Straits Times that a default judgment had been obtained against Madam Kanthimathy as she failed to appear.

The judgment has not been enforced yet, he added.

The suit against the other defendants, who are denying the claims, is continuing and a High Court pre- trial conference was held last week.

This includes a $500,000 claim against property agent Parvathi Somu, who handled Dr Paul's bungalow sale and is disputing the case.

The suit was filed in June by Senior Counsel Philip Jeyaretnam and a relative as Dr Paul's legal representatives.

Dr Paul, 86, who now lives in a nursing home, had sold her bungalow in Haig Road in October 2009 for $15.4 million. Part of the cash given to the defendants had come from the sale. She was said to have been diagnosed in 2009 to be incapable of making financial decisions; the plaintiffs want the court to order that the gifts made after that date be returned to her as she did not have the capacity to understand her actions.

In a formal statement sworn before a lawyer in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka, where she lives, Madam Kanthimathy said she could not come to Singapore because of her health.

She received $2 million altogether in two separate gifts in 2009 and 2010; she said these were made out of love and affection by Dr Paul for her service and sacrifice.

Madam Kanthimathy was sent to work as a housemaid to Dr Paul, at age 27 in 1987. Her father died when she was very young.

The Tamil-speaking maid said she looked after Dr Paul's aged mother and a sister, who was of unsound mind, and was paid $120 a month.

Dr Paul's mother died in 1992 and the maid returned to Sri Lanka to settle down in 1993.

But she said Dr Paul called her often to ask her to come back. Dr Paul also spoke to her former maid's mother and siblings, urging them not to give her away in marriage.

The doctor reassured them that she (Dr Paul) would look after Madam Kanthimathy, if she returned and looked after her sick sister until her death. She said Dr Paul would give her a "considerable sum" to live without depending on anyone.

Madam Kanthimathy came back in 1998 and looked after Dr Paul's sister until her death in 2009, claiming she was not paid every month.

She added that she was treated as a member of Dr Paul's family and pointed to Dr Paul's will in 2007, which clearly showed her intention to give her a considerable sum of money.

Madam Kanthimathy said she did not marry because of Dr Paul and her family, and this cannot be compensated by money.

She explained that the money gift was to help her settle down for the rest of her life, and a gesture of love and affection by Dr Paul.

Colombo-based lawyer V. Puvitharan, who had advised her earlier to file a notice of appearance, said yesterday that the default judgment will have to be registered in a Sri Lanka court for possible enforcement. "I will discuss and advise her if contacted to decide on what is to be done," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2015, with the headline 'Ex-maid fails to file notice of defence'. Print Edition | Subscribe