Steward who sued SIA agrees to have suit dismissed

 Mr Jotheeswaran had claimed in his lawsuit that he suffered a spine injury when a bag from an overhead compartment fell on him in 2009.
Mr Jotheeswaran had claimed in his lawsuit that he suffered a spine injury when a bag from an overhead compartment fell on him in 2009. ST FILE PHOTO

He consents to leave SIA and give up wage claims after case is deemed unsustainable

A flight steward who sued Singapore Airlines (SIA), claiming he suffered a spine injury when a bag fell on him, has agreed to have the lawsuit dismissed and leave the airline following a 21-day High Court hearing that stretched over two years.

Mr K. Jotheeswaran, 43, also consented to give up any wage claims or post-employment benefits under the High Court order from Justice Belinda Ang.

It is understood that glaring discrepancies in witness testimony made the suit unsustainable.

The court order issued last month does not preclude SIA's right to take further action against him.

In the suit, which started in 2014, Mr Jotheeswaran said that on July 8, 2009, he was helping passengers to board a plane in Chennai, India.

A bag fell from an overhead compartment, hitting the back of his neck. Despite treatment for back pain, his condition did not improve.

Five months later, he had spinal surgery. But even after this and physiotherapy, he said he still suffers from neck pain and numbness in his left arm. He said in his claim that he even developed a degenerative disease in his spine.

Mr Jotheeswaran, represented by lawyer Mohamed Niroze Idroos, sought damages from SIA, alleging that the airline had been negligent and breached its duty of care as an employer by failing to install safety measures such as netting to stop baggage from falling out.

High Court claims start at $250,000. But SIA, defended by Mr Niru Pillai, raised doubts whether such an incident even occurred.

A key turnaround as to Mr Jotheeswaran's credibility emerged when he was recalled to the witness stand on the 19th day of the trial.

Among other things, he had sworn in documents that he went home after returning from Chennai and remained there until July 13, by which time the pain had become unbearable, and he went to hospital.

But in court, he admitted to having flown to Penang on July 9, and remaining there for three days. He said he did not know it was important to mention going to Penang.

Mr Niru suggested he had misled the court and that another incident could have caused the pain, rather than the alleged incident in Chennai which was not reported immediately. Mr Jotheeswaran denied suppressing information to cheat. Mr Niru suggested something had happened in Penang which led to his Singapore hospital treatment on July 13. Mr Jotheeswaran disagreed.

SIA said that even if the incident had occurred, it did not breach its duty of care, and that it had met international standards relating to safe stowage of cabin baggage.

Both parties agreed to bear their own legal costs. Asked whether it would take further action, SIA said it is "reviewing this case".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2016, with the headline 'Steward agrees to have suit dismissed'. Print Edition | Subscribe