Thai court orders S$42,000 payout to Malaysian celebrity chef over child's birth defects

In a lawsuit, Malaysian celebrity chef Walter Lee accused the hospital and two doctors of contributing to his son's deformity. PHOTO: THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - After an 11-year court battle, Malaysian celebrity chef Walter Lee's family will receive 1 million baht (S$42,081) in compensation from Bangkok's Bumrungrad International Hospital and two doctors over their negligence in failing to identify birth defects in Mr Lee's son.

The payout is significantly less than the Bt390.9 million originally sought in the civil lawsuit.

The Supreme Court verdict on Wednesday (March 14) upheld a previous court ruling that the private hospital, along with obstetrician Dr Dechapong Phucharoen and radiologist Dr Orachat Udompanich, jointly pay the family the compensation with an annual interest rate of 7.5 per cent from the lawsuit-filing date of Sept 20, 2007, until full payment is made.

In the lawsuit, Mr Lee - who was a former host of the @5 Dairy cooking show on Channel 5 - accused the hospital and two doctors of contributing to his son's deformity.

Mr Lee's Thai wife, Prapaporn Saejeung, was told during antenatal care at the hospital that the ultrasound examination result showed the foetus in her womb was healthy and strong, but the boy, now 12, was born in September 2006 with one complete left arm, half a right arm, no right leg and an incomplete left leg with three toes and dislocated hip joints.

The couple claimed that a second ultrasound they had asked for - but was ruled out by the doctor as unnecessary - could have detected the deformity.

Phra Khanong Provincial Court, as the primary court, ruled in December 2009 that the hospital and two doctors must jointly pay compensation worth Bt12 million plus the 7.5 per cent annual interest.

The primary court noted that the compensation ordered was less than the family had demanded because the judge was of the opinion that the three defendants had not acted with malicious or criminal intentions.

However, the case was forwarded by both sides to the Appeals Court, which then ruled that the three defendants must pay only Bt1 million plus the 7.5 per cent annual interest.

After the child's birth, the Lee family found a German team of prosthetic specialists to help the boy stand and walk.

According to his Facebook page (, Mr Lee later established the Zy Movement Foundation to help disabled children in Thailand and across Southeast Asia.

In one of its upcoming activities, the Zy Movement Foundation Malaysia will join with Penang Hill Corporation and The Habitat Penang Hill to organise the third "Climb To Change A Life " event on May 6.

The activity, involving 40 children with physical impairments and 120 volunteers, is primarily targeted to help children born with limb deficiencies to nurture self-belief and optimism through participation in physically-challenging activities.

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