SMRT settles lawsuit over escalator fall

Ms Azlin, seen with her mother, Madam Azizah Mohd Lajis, fell into the shaft of an escalator under maintenance (right).
Ms Azlin, seen with her mother, Madam Azizah Mohd Lajis, fell into the shaft of an escalator under maintenance (right). PHOTOS COURTESY OF AZLIN AMRAN

Plaintiff, paralysed after falling into gap at MRT station in 2013, had sought $3m

SMRT has settled a lawsuit brought by a woman who was paralysed from the waist down after falling into an MRT escalator gap more than three years ago.

Ms Azlin Amran, 31, sued SMRT Trains for negligence, and sought about $3 million in damages following the mishap at Tanah Merah MRT Station on Jan 28, 2013.

Neither party disclosed the final payout, if any.

"I miss being spontaneous," said the once-sporty business studies degree holder last night.

She was making her way out of the station that day, when she fell into the escalator shaft on the third step of a descending escalator undergoing maintenance.

Ms Azlin remained trapped in the escalator mechanism for more than 30 minutes until Civil Defence officers rescued her and took her to Changi General Hospital.

She suffered spinal cord damage among other injuries, which has left her a paraplegic and needing to use a wheelchair to get around.

Medical reports from various specialists were tendered to support her claims and attest to her serious condition.

Then an administrative cum operations executive, she is now severely handicapped in the labour market, according to the suit.

Through lawyer Nadia Moynihan, she alleged SMRT had failed in its duty of care, and sought special and general damages to pay for medical treatment, caregivers and loss of earnings, according to court papers filed in September last year.

SMRT, in defence papers filed by lawyer Anthony Wee, had contested the claims, arguing she had caused or contributed to her injuries by failing to keep a proper lookout, among other things.

A High Court case management conference was held yesterday before Assistant Registrar Janice Wong.

SMRT spokesman Patrick Nathan told The Straits Times the case had been amicably settled out of court. "We deeply regret the injuries that Ms Azlin sustained from the accident," he added.

Mr Nathan said following the incident, station staff have been reminded that safety barricades installed around maintenance areas must be fastened securely and checked regularly.

"In addition, maintenance staff must deploy lookout men on the upper and lower levels of escalators when these undergo maintenance tests. The safety of our passengers will and always continue to be our top priority," he said.

For Ms Azlin, who is now working at SPD, formerly known as Society for the Physically Disabled, as an employment support specialist, the mishap marked a sea change from her previous active and outdoor lifestyle.

She used to trek, swim, cycle and play badminton. Almost daily, she would climb 11 storeys to her flat in Sengkang as exercise and regularly travel abroad with her mother.

She told The Straits Times yesterday that she still takes the MRT to work in Tiong Bahru.

She said: "I still suffer a bit of post-traumatic stress disorder and have bits and pieces of flashback, especially in instances when I fall out of my wheelchair and can't get up. It's a reminder of everything I've lost."

She added: "Now, I have to plan every detail of my life. When I go out, I have to take note of whether the place is wheelchair-accessible.

"In the past, I could take walks and enjoy being in the moment. Now, when I'm taking out in a wheelchair, I have to be careful about a curb or a bump."

In March, SMRT was fined $120,000 after pleading guilty to one charge under the Workplace Safety and Health Act following a probe by the Manpower Ministry.

• Additional reporting by Rachel Chia

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2016, with the headline 'SMRT settles lawsuit over escalator fall'. Print Edition | Subscribe